Fisheries management for regime-based ecosystems: a management strategy evaluation for the snow crab fishery in the eastern Bering Sea

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Abstract

Regime shifts are a prominent feature of the physical environment of some ecosystems and have the potential to influence stock productivity. However, few management strategies or harvest control rules (HCRs) consider the possibility of changes in stock productivity. A management strategy evaluation is conducted for the snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) fishery in the eastern Bering Sea, an ecosystem influenced by regime shifts. Operating models that project recruitment as a single average (i.e. the current basis for management advice), regime-based with no relationship between recruitment and spawning biomass, and regime-based with control of recruitment oscillating between environmental conditions and spawning biomass are considered. An HCR that accounts for shifts in recruitment regime is compared with the status quo HCR for each operating model. The regime-based HCR increases yield and decreases variability in yield at the cost of a higher probability of overfishing in regime-based systems. However, the regime-based HCR slightly decreases yield (no change in variability) and increases the probability of overfishing in non-regime-based systems. Identifying changes in productivity that are definitely driven by environmental regime rather than fishing pressure is the largest difficulty in implementing these rules.

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