SSEEP will use a participatory design approach to develop and apply a spatial observation simulation modeling framework to quantify the potential impacts to fishery-independent surveys on the US Northeast Continental Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem resulting from spatial overlap with offshore wind energy development. The observation simulator will model key attributes of the NMFS NEFSC Bottom Trawl Survey’s survey design to evaluate the efficacy and statistical properties of anticipated changes, and to assess the performance of alternative methods for monitoring groundfish distribution, abundance, and trends.

Guided by a series of stakeholder workshops, and collaboration with our Steering Committee and NEFSC’s Offshore Wind Working Group, SSEEP will build from existing spatial analyses to parameterize a spatial observation model for a key set of groundfish species. Simulation testing based off the parameterization and scenarios of interest from the stakeholder workshops, will quantify the performance of potential alternatives for and changes to the statistical survey design of the Bottom Trawl Surveys, complementary sampling, and/or additional survey technologies. The performance of these alternatives will be compared to the traditional random stratified trawl survey design in order to identify which strategies can mitigate or address the impacts of offshore wind development. The spatial simulation modeling framework developed through this project can be generalized to other geographies and other applications of spatial overlaps in multi-use living marine resource management.

The intent of these analyses is to understand the effects of changes to scientific monitoring and the monitoring data used support management advice and knowledge of ecosystem status as a result of increases in ocean use. Additionally, the project aims to provide a framework for testing how scientific monitoring can adapt to meet both current and future anticipated needs as well as a framework for coordinated, integrative approaches to ecosystem-based management of marine and fishery systems to support best available science.


(1) Host stakeholder workshops aimed at understanding and prioritizing research questions for the simulation exercise to answer, such as alternatives for survey design and statistical performance measures, and to define a list of scenarios for the mechanisms underlying change (e.g. species productivity and distribution) that will form the focus of simulation evaluation.

(2) Synthesize and perform statistical analyses of the NEFSC Bottom Trawl Survey and its spatial overlap with wind areas to parameterize an observation model.

(3) Develop and parameterize a spatially-explicit model simulator framework that is capable of mirroring historical, observational data from the NEFSC Bottom Trawl Surveys and other potentially supplemental monitoring methods for a key set of groundfish species.

(4) Conduct simulation testing to evaluate the statistical performance of a stakeholder-based set of plausible alternatives for survey design given a set of ecosystem scenarios, and quantify their resulting uncertainty on key data streams used in fishery stock assessment.

Anticipated Project Deliverables

The project aims to produce and deliver

  • Guidance for changes to monitoring strategies and their likely consequences in terms of maintaining monitoring data integrity;

  • Rankings to prioritize changes to survey designs and strategies based on the expected changes for different scenarios and statistical performance;

  • Descriptions of desired statistical properties for supplemental sampling strategies to mitigate displacement of bottom trawl surveys from wind farm areas to inform potential new monitoring approaches (e.g., what sorts of data, what level of sampling effort and precision);

  • Minimum requirements for integrating different sampling methods with heterogeneous environmental surveys that are associated with different spatial processes;

  • A list of expected scenarios (species, or species distribution drivers) which might be most likely to be at risk; and

  • Likely implications of changes to survey sampling for scientific advice (e.g., relative impact on uncertainty in assessments), that can be quantified using Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE).

While the initial implementation will be focused on groundfish in the NEFSC Bottom Trawl Survey, the modeling framework developed for this project will be written in an open, general approach such that it can be applied to other instances of multiple ocean use management/overlap as well as to different geographies. The project will also provide training in quantitative fisheries science, and in collaborative and participatory model building to graduate students and early career scientific staff at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.