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Ecosystem Status Report for the Northeast Large Marine Ecosystem

Northeast Fisheries Science Center
NOAA Fisheries Service
166 Water Street
Woods Hole, MA 02543

Main Findings

  • The North Atlantic Oscillation, a major ecosystem driver in the North Atlantic Basin, underwent a strong reversal in 2010. We have experienced increased variability in the NAO over the last decade.
  • Sea surface temperatures (SST) on the Northeast Continental Shelf reached record levels in 2012 and have remained high. We have observed increased seasonal variability in SST over the last two decades.
  • Production of microscopic plants at the base of the food web has declined over the last three years.
  • Evidence for changes in the relative abundance of small and large zooplankton species points to decadal-scale regime shifts at the base of the food web.
  • Elasmobranch and small pelagic fish biomass has increased over the last several decades.
  • Shifts in the center of distribution of many fish species have been documented as environmental conditions change.
  • Fish condition (weight at a given length) has declined for a substantial number of species since 2000.
  • Coherence in recruitment survival ratios for twenty groundfish stocks has been observed, suggesting the effects of system-wide factor.
  • Landings for commercial and recreational fish have declined but commercial scallop and lobster landings remain strong.
  • For stocks that can be categorized with respect to both overfishing and overfished status, a total of nine are currently classified as overfished and six continue to experience overfishing.
  • Right whale and seal populations continue to increase.
  • Environmental stressors such as lead, mercury, and DDT contamination have generally declined.
  • Composite indices that integrate many variables from the Ecosystem Status Report point to broad-scale scale shifts in the state of the system.
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