Working Group on Integrated Assessment of the Azores (WGIAZOR)
The Working Group on Integrated Assessment of the Azores (WGIAZOR) performs scientific data analysis on key natural and socio-economic aspects for an integrated assessment of the Azorean ecosystem. This report summarizes the working group’s scientific activities and publi-cations from its creation in 2020 through to 2022. During this 3-year term, the group contributed to the development and updates of Fisheries and Ecosystem Overviews for the Azores. This re-port includes an introduction with an updated description of the Azorean ecoregion including the main oceanographic circulation and regional features. The Working Group also (1) aimed to advance a definition of subregional units with a focus on productivity and climate variability, (2) considered their spatio-temporal scales using productivity and pressure variables and, (3) reviewed selected case studies using ecosystem models within the ecoregion. The ecoregion has been mainly influenced by the Subtropical Gyre and surface conditions have recently been warmer than average, particularly in the Gulf Stream region. Subtropical front change may ex-plain 3°C warming anomaly. Plankton size composition is trending toward smaller organisms. The rate of non-indigenous species discovery doubled from 1950 to 1999 to 2000 to 2015. Most fisheries in the Azores ecoregion are targeted by Azorean vessels. Surface longliners from Por-tugal and Spain targeting swordfish and blue shark catch a small amount. Around 60% of the vessels are less than 9 metres long and target numerous different species. Most important are tuna and tuna-like species, deep-water demersal species, and small pelagic species. The most important fishing methods are handline, bottom longline, and pole and line. Surface longline is used by non-regional vessels outside a 100-nautical-mile area. The ICES status of 12 stocks in this ecoregion is unclear. These data-limited stocks are managed following the precautionary ap-proach (category 3–5 stocks). Future WGIAZOR studies will focus on the integrated ecosystem assessment of the Azorean seas. Pressure on oceans (biodiversity loss, climate change, fisheries), lack of understanding of broad marine ecosystem functioning, and the context of ecosystem health indicator development (e.g. for MSFD) need addressing research topics at the relevant scale, i.e. regionally relevant approaches. How to identify relevant scales for diverse processes and how to summarize ecoregion level data from fragmented, non-continuous data are recent concerns (e.g. surveys using different gears, different modelling approaches, and different socio-economic contexts). Standardizing methodologies has become an important concern as ecosys-tem assessment progresses towards advice. This presents challenges in the face of such diversity. WGIAZOR will work to address these challenges.
Published under the auspices of the following ICES Steering Group or Committee