This project, funded by NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) and the Northern Gulf Institute (NGI), is a collaborative effort between NOAA Fisheries (Mandy Karnauskas, Kevin Craig), AOML(Sang-Ki Lee), and the University of Southern Mississippi (Frank Hernandez).
According to standardized fishery surveys, many target species in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) and South Atlantic Bight (SAB) are declining in abundance, suggesting a potential shift in system-wide productivity. In particular, several species within the coastal pelagic suite (e.g., king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and Cobia) show declines in recruitment in the late 2000s. Concurrently, the upper ocean temperatures in the SAB and GoM have increased greatly during the recent years, largely due to the increasing westerly and trade wind system in the North Atlantic and the associated upper ocean heat accumulation in the subtropical North Atlantic. In this study, we will explore a hypothesis that the anomalous accumulation of the upper ocean heat in the SAB and GoM suppressed the coastal upwelling and biological productivity along the GoM and SAB, and thus caused the scarcity of the food sources for the coastal pelagic species. To test this working hypothesis, we propose to analyze available fisheries data (landings data, survey data and fishery-dependent data), available ocean observations, a high-resolution ocean reanalysis product and a suite of ocean-biogeochemical model outputs available from AOML.