Fisheries Ecosystem Models

Full Title: Ecosystem Modeling to Improve Fisheries Management in the Gulf of Mexico

Lead Investigator (Institution): David Chagaris (University of Florida)

Co-investigators (Institution): Skyler Sagarese (NOAA)Matthew Lauretta (NOAA)Kim de Mutsert (George Mason University),  and Rob Ahrens (University of Florida)

Technical Monitor: Nick Farmer (

Award Amount: $1,167,586

Award Period: June 12017 – May 31, 2020

Summary: The population of a recreationally or commercially important fish species can be influenced by several factors such as the abundance of the prey it eats, the abundance of the predators that eat it, mortality events such as harmful algal blooms, and ocean conditions which can determine if early life stages of the fish make it to suitable nursery habitat. Understanding how these factors interact is not easy, but advances in computer modeling and in our knowledge of these factors in the Gulf of Mexico is making it possible to develop computer-based ecosystem models that take many of these factors into account. This project will further refine Gulf of Mexico ecosystem models working in concert with fisheries managers to make sure the model outputs are relevant to the decisions managers face. Specifically, this project will integrate managers into the model refinement process through workshops and regular communication. Working with input from managers, the model development team will adapt existing models to address current challenges associated with managing gag grouper and Gulf menhaden and incorporate the outputs from the updated models into the stock assessment process for each species. In addition, the model development team will construct new features to test model accuracy and better represent spatial processes and stressors such as habitat preferences, red tides, and fish migration patterns. The model development team will align model development and outputs to coincide with the requirements and timing of the stock assessment and management process. Trainings will be provided to fisheries managers so they will understand the capabilities and limitations of ecosystem models and be able to execute model simulations to inform their own decision making.