Fisheries Ecosystem Models

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

This project will integrate information on ecosystem stressors and predator-prey interactions into the fisheries assessment and management process in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Team: David Chagaris (Lead Investigator, University of Florida,, Skyler Sagarese (NOAA), Matthew Lauretta (NOAA), Kim de Mutsert (George Mason University),  and Rob Ahrens (University of Florida)

Technical Monitor: Nick Farmer (

Federal Program Officer/Point of Contact: Frank Parker (

This project began in June 2017 and will end in May 2020.

Award Amount: $1,167,586

Why we care: The population of a recreationally or commercially important fish species can be influenced by several factors such as the abundance of its prey, the abundance of its predators, mortality events, and ocean conditions which can determine if early life stages make it to suitable nursery habitat. Understanding how these factors interact is not easy, but advances in computer modeling in the Gulf of Mexico is making it possible to develop computer-based ecosystem models that take many of these factors into account.

What we are doing: 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. 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.

Expected Outcome: This project will integrate fisheries managers into the continued development of computer-based ecosystem models for the Gulf of Mexico and produce model outputs relevant to the decisions managers face. This project will update computer-based ecosystem models for gag grouper and Gulf menhaden that address specific challenges with managing those important fisheries.

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