Working Group on Northwest Atlantic Ecosystem Observations (WGNAEO)
The Working Group on Northwest Atlantic Ecosystem Observations (WGNAEO) coordinates United States and Canadian trawl survey activities, data sharing, and analyses to inform integrated ecosystem science in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Fishery-independent trawl surveys conducted by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans Maritimes Region (DFO) and United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NOAA NEFSC) have broad spatial overlap and similar sampling objectives. DFO is transitioning to a new survey vessel, providing an opportunity to transition to the standard sampling gear used by NEFSC. The objectives of WGNAEO were to develop a plan to coordinate trawl surveys conducted by DFO and NEFSC and review and document regional ecosystems observations to inform ecosystem assessments and ecosystem science activities. Questions regarding coordination of surveys focused on standardization of sampling gear and protocols, combining data sets and defining new stratification boundaries. ArcGIS applications were developed to visualize and compare stratification options, leading to a set of proposed new strata. Further analyses are necessary to evaluate potential impacts to calculated indices of fish abundance before finalizing the new strata. Future priorities of WGNAEO will focus on finalizing stratification, standardizing sampling gear and protocols, determining the necessary biological sampling required by both surveys, ensuring continuity of the time-series of survey data, combining survey tows into an assessment, and evaluating optimal sampling effort, with the goal of conducting the first coordinated survey in spring 2024. An inventory of the oceanographic observations and methods (chemical, physical and plankton) by DFO and NOAA monitoring programs in the region was assembled, focusing on water column observations and observations from dedicated surveys. An inter-comparison analysis was conducted to identify differences in the zooplankton sample collection methods employed by each organization. Static copies of both trawl survey data sets are being shared following the completion of each survey to enable access to these data for fish stock assessment. Options to combine data sets were investigated and will continue as a future priority for WGNAEO, including incorporating and linking oceanographic data with trawl data.
Published under the auspices of the following ICES Steering Group or Committee