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NCLIM - Northeast Climate Integrated Modeling

NCLIM-Northeast Climate Integrated Modeling Initiative



The Northeast Climate Integrated Modeling initiative (NCLIM) is an interdisciplinary effort to support climate-informed fisheries decision making in the Northeast U.S. The project seeks to build on national efforts to incorporate climate science into fishery decision making (e.g. ACLIM in the Bering Sea, regional IEAs) by building a regional community of practice to support integrated climate, ecosystem, socio-economic, and fishery modeling. Our goal is to leverage the resulting model framework to provide scientific support to fishery and marine resource decision makers grappling with current and future climate consequences.

Background Commercial and recreational fisheries are economic and cultural staples for many communities in the Northeast U.S., but changing environmental conditions call into question the long-term viability of these fisheries. Observed shifts in species distributions and productivity have already been linked to ocean warming and these impacts are expected to grow over time as waters in the Northwest Atlantic continue to warm at a rate four times the global average. There is an increasing need to understand how environmental shifts impact fisheries and develop adaptive strategies for fisheries to continue operating in the future.

Overview figure

Beyond biological and ecosystem impacts, changing climate can directly impact the efficacy of existing fisheries management efforts. Stock assessments make data-informed assumptions about biological processes (e.g. growth, recruitment, and mortality) and harvesting characteristics (e.g. survey and fishery catchability) to evaluate stock status. Failure to identify and integrate climate impacts on stock and fishery dynamics into management procedures can result in biased estimates of stock status and ineffective harvest control rules. There is a need to identify when and how climate influences stock and fishery dynamics and to explore candidate management procedures that account for climate impacts more explicitly.

NCLIM Phase 1 (2020-2023)

Building multi-institutional, interdisciplinary, and modelling capacity is a key to the development and testing of adaptive management responses. The NCLIM team identified research track stock assessments as an initial path to integrate regional climate research with fisheries management processes. One goal of this approach is to identify climate uncertainties and their impacts on regional fisheries management and to develop candidate climate-informed stock assessments to supplement or replace current methods and provide improved advice. Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) is a key tool that can leverage NCLIM’s modeling framework to account for climate uncertainties, test current and candidate climate-informed assessments, and evaluate stakeholder-defined objectives to support fishery decision making.

Objectives of NCLIM Phase 1 Include:

1️⃣Building a Community of Practice

Meeting Goals:

  1. Advance capacity of the broad regional team to develop products that support fisheries and marine resource management, as well as a general understanding of a changing marine ecosystem
  2. Promote mutual learning across disciplines to enable integration and linkages across individual research and modeling efforts
  3. Transfer of climate knowledge, tools, and products within NOAA to the region

Join the Northeast Climate-Fisheries Seminar Series

This seminar series will focus on sharing climate-fisheries research in the U.S. Northeast region with the goal of building broader awareness of efforts across research groups and facilitating collaboration. We invite presentations on research projects that are either in progress or recently completed. We anticipate talks will cover a variety of themes, including:

  1. Advances in ocean observations, modeling, and prediction
  2. Mechanistic studies of climate/environmental impacts on marine fish and invertebrates
  3. Marine species habitat, distribution, and abundance modeling,
  4. Climate enhanced stock assessments and fisheries management
  5. Climate informed studies on human dimensions and economics.

The series is held on the last Thursday of each month from noon to 1pm. Remote Access through Google Meet:

2️⃣Building an Integrated Modeling Framework

The NCLIM modeling framework aims to integrate:

  1. Global climate models
  2. Regional oceanographic models
  3. Ecosystem and population models
  4. Human dimensions models

Our development of an integrated modeling framework has progressed during the initial phase of NCLIM and leverages several aspects of ongoing research, including advances in regional ocean modeling (i.e., NOAA-GFDL MOM6 model), a next generation stock assessment (i.e., Woods Hole Assessment Model, WHAM), and an existing management strategy evaluation framework (i.e., Groundfish-MSE). We have also made significant progress on development of a dynamic range model that simulates a spatially explicit age structured population that can emulate temperature dependence of life processes (e.g., recruitment, natural mortality, and dispersal). The framework is built for testing the robustness of fisheries management strategies to climate change impacts, including shifting species distribution and changes in fish productivity.

Project repositories:

  • NOAA-GFDL MOM6 model: Modular Ocean Model 6 development
  • Groundfish-MSE: A Management Strategy Evaluation Framework for New England Groundfish
  • SSRTWG: Repository for the State-Space Research Track Working Group
  • WHAM: Woods Hole Assessment Model (WHAM) repository
  • PlaiceWG2021: Repository for WHAM modeling of American plaice in support of 2021-2022 research track stock assessment
  • Plaice environmental drivers: Repository for exploratory modeling of environmental effects on American plaice stock dynamics in support of 2021-2022 research track stock assessment
  • Indicator-Visualizations:RShiny user interface for visualizing an integrated ecosystem assessment focused on characterizing the status and trends of the fishery ecosystem in Maine’s coastal waters

Application in Research Track Stock Assessments

Gulf of Maine Cod Climate-Informed Stock Assessment
Atlantic cod is an iconic species in the Northeast U.S. that historically supported large domestic and foreign fisheries, but is now considered overfished with overfishing occurring. Difficulties rebuilding the stock may be hindered by recent decreases in productivity and increased mortality attributed to warming ocean temperatures. Incorporating time-varying and temperature-dependent natural mortality has been shown to improve stock assessment diagnostics for this species, but there is room for further exploration of climate links to population dynamics. The NCLIM framework will be leveraged to integrate climate considerations into the research track stock assessment process for Gulf of Maine cod.

Project Goals:

  • Explore assessment models that allow for time-varying processes
  • Develop and test candidate assessments using the NCLIM framework in collaboration with the Research Track Working Group for Atlantic Cod
  • Compare candidate and status quo assessments
  • Share findings with WG members and synthesize climate context for WG report (TOR1)

American Plaice Climate-Informed Stock Assessment
American plaice is a commercially important flatfish in the Northeast U.S. and Canada that is considered rebuilt. In recent years plaice have shifted further offshore and into deeper water, this shift is expected to continue with likely negative effects on the stock as ocean temperatures warm and suitable habitat contracts. Temperature has been shown to influence plaice distribution, depth, growth rate, recruitment, and possibly maturity, while other climate drivers (e.g. NAO, AMO) have been linked to changing recruits per spawner and distribution. Although population dynamics and distribution have clear links to climate dynamics, to date these influences have not been incorporated into stock assessments for plaice nor has this knowledge been used to provide estimates of climate uncertainties that may benefit decision-making processes. The NCLIM framework will be leveraged to integrate climate considerations into the research track stock assessment process for American plaice.

Project Goals:

  • Identify key climate drivers for American plaice and proposed links to stock dynamics
  • Develop and test candidate assessments using the NCLIM framework in collaboration with the American Plaice Assessment Working Group (WG)
  • Compare candidate and status quo assessments (Woods Hole Assessment Model code available here)
  • Share findings with WG members and synthesize climate context for WG report (TOR1)

Key climate-informed products and working papers:

Black Sea Bass Climate-Informed Stock Assessment
Black sea bass is a commercially and recreationally important species in the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions that has shown increased productivity in response to warming temperatures. The species has exhibited a northward shift in response to climate that is captured by divergent state surveys (increases in northern surveys and decreases in the south) but the coastwide survey suggests variability without trend. The single-area stock assessment proposed in 2012 struggled to replicate these divergent survey trends and the model ultimately did not pass review. Subsequent work found that two-area models exhibited improved fit to survey data, and there is interest in further exploring approaches to account for climate-driven species distribution shifts in stock assessments. The NCLIM framework will be leveraged to integrate climate considerations into the research track stock assessment process for black sea bass.

Project Goals:

  • Explore assessment models that can account for changing resource distribution and productivity
  • Develop and test candidate assessments using the NCLIM framework in collaboration with the Black Sea Bass Assessment Working Group (WG)
  • Compare candidate and status quo assessments
  • Share findings with WG members and synthesize climate context for WG report (TOR1)

Collaborators and Funding:

Phase 1 Collaborators


Phase 1 Funding
Funder logo

NCLIM Phase 2 (2023-2026)

NCLIM phase 2 focuses on the integrated modeling initiative to meet ocean decision challenges in a changing Northeast U.S. shelf ecosystem. In Phase 2, we will make significant advances in the integrated modeling framework. The addition of new models will add the capacity for testing ecosystem approaches to fisheries management, ecosystem-based fisheries management, and climate adaptation scenarios. These additions will add more realistic and responsive fleet dynamics as well as allow us to quantify the socioeconomic benefits of alternative management approaches to inform our understanding of impacts on fishing communities.

Objectives of NCLIM Phase 2 Include:

1️⃣Increase regional capacity for climate-informed decision-making in fisheries

Increasing regional capacity through:

  1. Expanding NCLIM team expertise
  2. Growing the NCLIM community of practice through stakeholder engagement
  3. Co-developing climate adaptation strategy scenarios
2️⃣Expand the integrated modeling framework to test climate adaptation strategies and their socioeconomic impacts

Expanding the integrated modeling framework by:

  1. Linking climate, ecosystem, and human dimensions models
  2. Simulation testing the performance of climate adaptation strategies
  3. Developing models to support climate adaptation scenarios
3️⃣Advance approaches to account for climate change in tactical fisheries management

Advancing approaches by:

  1. Integrating climate impacts on fish stock dynamics into stock assessment
  2. Defining biological reference points in a dynamic environment
  3. Exploring novel approaches to account for climate risk in setting catch advice

Project repositories:

  • Yellowtail Flounder RT: Repository for modeling of Yellowtail Flounder in support of 2023-2024 research track stock assessment
  • Atlantic Herring RT: Repository for modeling of Atlantic Herring in support of 2023-2025 research track stock assessment
  • NRCC Assessment Research Steering Committee: This committee looks at future research track stock assessments and explores new methods and data to develop new or improve existing stock assessments



Coupled Global Climate and Regional Ocean Circulation Models

Project Leads: V. Saba amd E. Curchitser

Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management (EBFM)

Simulation Testing the Performance of EBFM Strategies

Project Leads: G. Fay, L. Kerr, S. Large

This project aims to compare the performance of the following within the Georges Bank region, using Hydra as an operating model:

  1. Single species management: status quo stock assessment and management with no consideration of climate impacts in the assessment or in the estimation of reference points
  2. Single species-EAFM: climate-informed assessment and management which accounts for non-stationarity and/or climate drivers of stock dynamics and allows for dynamic biological reference points
  3. EBFM: assessment and management that accounts for species interactions and harvest management based on species-complex reference points (i.e., ceilings/floor)
Climate-Integrated Stock Assessment

Project Leads: L. Kerr, T. Miller, J. Deroba, S. Cadrin, A. Hansell

Human Dimensions

Developing a fully coupled, agent-based economic model that assesses the response of the fleet (i.e., firm) to changing species availability

Project Leads: M-Y Lee, A. Birchenback

Research Questions:

  1. How will fishing fleets respond to a changing climate and changing species availability in terms of potential adaptation strategies, including targeting, timing, and diversification strategies?
  2. How will fishing fleets respond to changing management (e.g., ACL changes that affect quote prices)?
  3. How will changes in climate and management exacerbate or mitigate economic inequality of fishery participants?
  4. Which communities will gain, and which will lose as the distribution of fish stocks changes?
Reference Points

Simulation testing the performance of alternative methods for defining reference points under climate change

Project Leads: L. Kerr, J. Weidenmann, J. Deroba, S. Cadrin

Workshop: Defining Biological Reference Points (BPRs) in a Dynamic Northeast U.S. Maring Environment

Location UMass Darthmouth, SMAST
When: January 8-9, 2024

Workshop Objectives:

  1. Identify need to redefine reference points in a changing ecosystem
  2. Review existing approaches to defining biological reference points
  3. Evaluation of approaches to defining BRPs in other areas of the US and globally
  4. Synthesize recommendations for estimating reference points for stocks in our changing ecosystem
Climate Adaptation

Using stakeholder feedback to inform the design of climate adaptation scenarios for simulation testing

Project Leads: K. Mills, M. Cutler

The goals of this projects are to:

  1. Characterize climate adaptation strategies employed in the Northeast U.S. fisheries system and document how fishers and communities are adapting to a changling climate
  2. Inform the development of future climate adaptation scenarios that will be quantitatively evaluated through simulation testing
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness of potential adaptation strategies for specific climate impacts and fishery contexts
Ensemble Modeling

Accounting for climate risk in catch advice

Project Leads: T. Miller, L. Kerr

Ensemble modeling provides an alternative approach for accounting for uncertainty by addressing structural uncertainty in the assessment through combining multiple models’ predictions into an ensemble set. This approach is a departure from the current paradigm of selecting the “best” model for use in generating advice. In the context of research track stock assessments, we are increasingly exploring multiple formulations of assessments, including models incorporating time-varying dynamics with linkages to ecosystem covariates, but still are constrained to put forward a single “best” model for use in setting catch advice. Ensemble modeling can provide an opportunity for diverse representations of the dynamics of fish stocks in setting fisheries catch advice. We will use simulation testing to explore the following questions:

  • Does using the weighted catch advice for the “best” model provide better catch advice?
  • Does using the weighted catch advice across candidate models provide better catch advice?

Collaborators and Funding:

Phase 2 Collaborators


Phase 2 Funding
This work is funded by the NOAA Climate and Fisheries Adaptation Program (CAFA) with additional funding from the New England Fishery Management Council and the Cooperative Institute for the North Atlantic Region (CINAR)
Funder logo


Lisa Kerr (

Popular repositories

  1. .github .github Public

  2. groundfish-MSE groundfish-MSE Public

    Forked from lkerr/groundfish-MSE

    Development of Robust Management Strategies for Northeast Groundfish Fisheries in a Changing Climate


  3. miscFunctions miscFunctions Public

    Forked from ahart1/miscFunctions


  4. Indicator_Visualizations Indicator_Visualizations Public

    Forked from Jamie-Behan/Indicator_Visualizations

    An RShiny user interface for visualizing an integrated ecosystem assessment focused on characterizing the status and trends of the fishery ecosystem in Maine’s coastal waters


  5. Atlantic-Bluefin-Tuna-Climate-Informed-Stock-Assessment Atlantic-Bluefin-Tuna-Climate-Informed-Stock-Assessment Public



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