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  • Newport Hydrographic Line Research and Ocean Ecosystem Monitoring


Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) Fish Ecology FE - Estuarine and Ocean Ecology - Ocean Ecology


Newport Hydrographic Line
Newport Hydrographic Line Research and Ocean Ecosystem Monitoring
The Newport Hydrographic (NH) Line time-series has been key to understanding the connectivity between changes in ocean-climate and ecosystem structure and function. The 20+ year time series of data collected along the NH Line is the only long-term, high-frequency dataset of its kind for the California Current. It provides fortnightly to monthly data collection to monitor and study climate variability and climate change through physical, chemical, and biological oceanographic metrics. Data are distilled into ocean ecosystem indicators used to characterize the habitat and survival of juvenile salmonids and have also shown promise for other stocks, such as sablefish, rockfish, and sardine. NH Line data are integral to the CCIEA’s annual Ecosystem Status Report presented to the PFMC, are included in the PFMC coastal pelagic species SAFE document, and are used in salmon outlooks presented to the WCRO, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NWPCC), Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), and used by non-NOAA stakeholders. Data from the NH Line also provide information on critical and emerging issues such as marine heatwaves, OA, hypoxia, and HABs; important issues for federal, state, tribal, academic and conservation organizations, and fishing communities. The NH Line brings notoriety to the NWFSC as the gold standard in ocean ecosystem monitoring for the high frequency, longevity and scientific rigor of sampling, and the near real-time availability of the data that enables managers to anticipate effects of changing ocean conditions on fisheries.

Research Themes

Ecosystem approach to improve management of marine resources
The California Current Large Marine Ecosystem, Puget Sound and the Columbia River Basin are home to a wide range of freshwater and marine resources that provide a wealth of ecosystem goods and services. Ensuring the resiliency and productivity of the California Current and Pacific Northwest ecosystems requires an integrated understanding of their structure, function, and vulnerability to increased human population growth in coastal communities and competing uses of coastal waterways and oceans. The NWFSC‘s approach to understanding these large ecosystems integrates studies across ecosystems (terrestrial, freshwater, and marine) and scientific disciplines to inform resource managers responsible for conserving marine resources.
Habitats to support sustainable fisheries and recovered populations
Healthy oceans, coastal waters, and riverine habitats provide the foundation for aquatic resources used by a diversity of species and society. Protecting marine, estuarine and freshwater ecosystems that support these species relies on science to link habitat condition/processes and the biological effects of restoration actions. The NWFSC provides the habitat science behind many management actions taken by NOAA Fisheries and other natural resource agencies to protect and recover aquatic ecosystems and living marine resources. The NWFSC also maintains a longstanding focus on toxic chemical contaminants, as a foundation for regional and national research on pollution threats to fisheries and protected resources.
Recovery and rebuilding of marine and coastal species
The Pacific Northwest is home to several iconic endangered species, including Pacific salmon and killer whales, and several rockfish species. Mandates such as the Endangered Species Act, MagnusonStevens Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, grant NOAA Fisheries the authority to manage the recovery of depleted species and stocks. The NWFSC contributes to species recovery through research, monitoring and analysis, providing NOAA managers and regional stakeholders the tools and information they need to craft effective regulations and develop sustainable plans for recovery.
Sustainable, safe and secure seafood for healthy populations and vibrant communities
Effective fisheries management provides economic opportunities and ensures the long-term sustainability of fisheries and the habitats on which they depend. The NWFSC seeks to improve the quality and quantity of data used in stock assessments, the methods for assessing stocks and ecosystem sustainability within the context of human modification of the environment. The NWFSC also provides state-of-the-art science and technology to support aquaculture while protecting and maintaining ecosystem health. Further, pathogens, toxins from harmful algal blooms (HABs), chemical contaminants and other stressors of marine ecosystems pose significant risks to health of both seafood resources and to humans. The NWFSC focuses on research to improve understanding of those risks, how to forecast them, and identify means to mitigate their impacts.

Research Foci

Assess ecosystem status and trends
Tracking the status of ecosystems across time and space is data intensive as it necessitates evaluating a broad range of trophic levels and environmental conditions from pre-European times to the present. Because ecosystems vary across space and time, the NWFSC must maintain a research focus on the design and implementation of monitoring programs that are capable of capturing this variability. Key research elements are the development and application of novel survey designs, the development of information rich metrics and indicators, and the development of novel spatiotemporal decision support models to facilitate the use of monitoring data in science based decision making. Long-term monitoring program design should be integrated with the development of ecosystem models and indicators to ensure that critical data are collected to support these efforts. An important management goal is the ability to quickly detect important changes in the state of ecosystems (e.g., presence of an invasive species) such that preventative actions can be taken as soon as possible; thus, key management questions and uncertainties should be identified as the structure of monitoring program design to facilitate the decision-making process. It is imperative that the NWFSC’s monitoring science strengths be applied to the design of ecosystem monitoring programs for species (e.g., salmon, rockfish) and ecosystems so that such programs are strategically designed to maximize useable information and minimize cost and effort.
Characterize ecological interactions (e.g. predation, competition, parasitism, disease, etc.) within and among species
Predator-prey interactions, inter- and intra-specific competition, and parasites and pathogens influence the survival, growth, and reproductive success of anadromous and marine fishes, marine mammals and other marine organisms. Moreover, anthropogenic stressors, such as pollution and fishing, can influence these interactions. Because of the complex nature of these interactions, addressing questions about ecological interactions will require novel field and laboratory studies and analyses. This includes ecosystem models, use of innovative technologies (e.g., otolith microchemistry and stable isotopes), integration of sample collection efforts with those of the Ocean Observing System entities on the west coast, and quantifying interactions among environmental stressors, species behavior and ecosystem processes.
Characterize relationships between habitat and ecosystem processes, climate variation, and the viability of organisms
Developing effective conservation and restoration strategies for species or populations requires a clear understanding of how ecosystem processes and climate change will influence the viability of organisms in the future. Key research needs include (1) evaluating the vulnerability of organisms and ecosystems to climate change and human impacts (e.g., fishing, pollution, land use), and (2) devising adaptation strategies that will help achieve conservation goals despite climate change and increasing human pressures. Understanding how climate change or trends in human impacts might influence organisms is based on an understanding of linkages between ecosystem processes, habitat conditions, and abundance, survival or demographics of organisms. This necessitates modeling influences of ecosystem processes on habitats and species, or developing models to examine influences of human pressures on population or ecosystem dynamics. With this foundation, vulnerability assessments can focus on understanding how interactions between climate change and human impacts influence vulnerability of species or populations. Adaptation strategies require knowledge of current conservation needs, predictions of how those needs might change as a result of climate change or future human impacts, and assessments of the robustness of alternative conservation strategies or techniques to climate trends.
Develop methods to use physiological, biological and behavioral information to predict population-level processes
Understanding the biological processes occurring within organisms is a powerful way of understanding how environmental changes affect those organisms. Genetics, developmental, physiological and behavioral studies all provide important information for effective species recovery and rebuilding. Integrating this information into models is vital to predict how populations will respond to natural or human perturbations, and to assess the constraints to stock rebuilding efforts. For example, data on thermal tolerance and physiological responses to temperature can be used to explore changes caused by shifts in climate on reproductive behavior and productivity, viability, movement, habitat selection, and population dynamics. Similarly, data on contaminants that impact physiological processes (immune system, growth, development, reproduction, and general health) are critical in determining how these compounds affect population dynamics. Data on biological responses of organisms to ocean acidification are useful for understanding how acidification may affect individual development and survival. The NWFSC collects such information for several species that are of concern, targets of fisheries or otherwise important for overall ecosystem function. NWFSC scientists will continue to expand current efforts and develop methods to incorporate physiological, biological and behavioral data into population models in order to predict population-level processes from these individual level data.
Provide scientific support for the implementation of ecosystem-based management
Fisheries scientists and managers recognize the potential for ecosystem-based management to improve sustain the delivery of ecosystem goods and services, including sustainable fisheries resources. An Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) is one approach that examines all available information on relevant physical, chemical, ecological and human processes in relation to specified ecosystem management objectives. IEAs provide an efficient, transparent means of summarizing the status of ecosystem components, screening and prioritizing potential risks, and evaluating alternative management strategies against a backdrop of environmental variability. To perform IEAs of major ecosystems will require development of project components, including new and existing data, to develop a suite of indicators that characterize the ecosystem. Careful assessment of ecosystem indicators will provide a powerful means for assessing management efficacy and a basis for adapting and improving management practices. A major focus will be to produce the initial IEA of the California Current LME and then provide annual updates.
Provide scientific support to ensure safe seafood for healthier populations and characterize how human activities and climate affect risks from pathogens, chemical contaminants, and biotoxins
The availability of nutritious and safe seafood from marine ecosystems and aquaculture are essential to maintain and maximize human health. Even though fish are known to have a variety of health benefits, some seafood (wild or farmed) may contain levels of toxic compounds (e.g., chemical contaminants, pathogens, biotoxins) from a variety of human-related and natural sources that can pose health risks to humans, especially for those groups with high rates of seafood consumption. The development of novel methods and technologies to assess seafood safety and biological effects of these toxic compounds remains a priority for commercial, subsistence and recreational consumption of seafood. For example, several species (e.g., zebrafish, sea lions, shellfish) are excellent indicators of environmental stress and potential health threats to marine species and humans. These species can serve as informative animal models for investigations of the mechanisms of toxicity or disease processes. Specific research goals include (1) improve methods for monitoring for the presence of pathogens, toxins and contaminants in seafood products, (2) characterize the environmental and climate conditions that may be favorable for potential biotoxin and pathogen outbreaks, (3) develop technologies to remove chemical contaminants from fish feed and to enhance the nutritional content of aquaculture products, (4) develop a better understanding of the net economic and health benefits of seafood consumption balanced with the risk of exposure to pathogens, toxins and contaminants, and (5) develop new mechanistic animal models for the study of infectious diseases, as well as toxicological, physiological, and biochemical processes relevant to marine animal and human health.
Support collaborative community-based data collection, dissemination, and analysis for fishers, fisheries management, science, marketing, seafood safety, and education
Data are no longer the sole province of the agency. As technologies advance, fishers are collecting and analyzing fleet data in near real time. Data collected by fishers are used by the fishing community to reduce bycatch, allocate fishery impacts, and trace products through the processing and marketing system. Fisher-collected data, in combination with survey and oceanographic data, satellite remote sensing, economic data, and sociocultural data provide improved understanding of fish stocks, fishing, and the near-shore ecosystem. Collaborative efforts increase the quantity and quality of data available to the agency for scientific analysis, modeling, fishery management, and conservation. Through cooperation with the science and management agencies, the fishing community stands to gain more control and flexibility of their fishing operations, including the potential for improved economic efficiency. Increased availability of fisheries data creates opportunities for education and outreach both in the school system and to the general public. Further, well-informed local leaders conversant in the latest fishery issues will help garner local support and fisher buy-in for improved information sharing. The NWFSC will work with industry groups to improve distributed data collection, compilation, and distribution for multiple uses in fisheries, management, science, marketing, and education.
Understand how climate influences ecosystem variability
Effective ecosystem management will require an understanding of how climate variability and climate change will alter riverine, estuarine, and marine habitats and consequently how this will affect ecosystem status, function and recovery. Key research elements include better understanding of historical ecological variability through traditional (i.e., indigenous) sources, exploring the vulnerability of key species and biotic communities to expected habitat changes, including decreasing stream flow, increased flood frequency, increasing stream temperature, sea level rise, ocean acidification, shifts in ocean currents, and changed frequency and extent of deoxygenated zones. A secondary goal is to improve understanding of how ecosystems respond to year-to-year and decadal climate variability. Achieving these research goals will provide NOAA and state and local governments with the knowledge and tools needed to incorporate climate change and variability into management of living marine resources.


Climate--fish-stock linkages
Research into the ways in which climate change and variability affect the productivity and distribution of fish populations. Identification of the linkages between climate-related factors and fish productivity and behavior.
Ecosystem-based Management
El Nino


CCIEA annual report
Characterizing spatial coherence of copepods in the Northern California Current
2021. Progress in Oceanography Vol 193
Comparison of condition metrics and lipid content between Euphausia pacifica and Thysanoessa spinifera in the northern California Current, USA
2020. Progress in Oceanography. 188, p.102417
Implications of Pyrosoma atlanticum range expansion on phytoplankton standing stocks in the Northern California Current. Progress in Oceanography.
Progress in Oceanography. 2020 Sep 8:102424.
Phenological mismatch, carryover effects, and marine survival in a wild steelhead trout Oncorhynchus mykiss population.
Published in 2021 Progress in Oceanography. 193, p.102533
Squeezed by a habitat split: Warm ocean conditions and old-forest loss interact to reduce long-term occupancy of a threatened seabird
2020. Conservation Letters. Aug 22:e12745.
The importance of long-term ecological time series for integrated ecosystem assessment and ecosystem-based management.
2020. Progress in Oceanography. p.102418


Family Clupeidae
herrings, menhadens, sardines, shads
Family Engraulidae
Family Sebastidae
rockfishes, rockcods and thornyheads
Order Decapoda
decapods, ten-footed
Order Euphausiacea
Phylum Chaetognatha
arrow worms, arrow-worms, arrowworms
Phylum Mollusca


Brandon Chasco
Internal Collaborator
Brian Bill
Internal Collaborator
Brian Burke
Brian Wells
External Collaborator
David Huff
Program Manager
Kym Jacobson
Principal Investigator
Mary Hunsicker
Internal Collaborator
Vera Trainer
Internal Collaborator