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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Forecasted changes to the timing of Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) spawn in a warming ocean

John R. Harley*, Matthew H. Grinnell, Kyle Hebert, Jaclyn Cleary, Matthew Thompson, Christopher N. Rooper

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) are a critical commercial and subsistence fish species and play a keystone role in the ecology and culture of the North Pacific. The annual herring spawn, where mature herring migrate nearshore to deposit eggs along the coastline, is an important event linked to the migration of seabirds and marine mammals as well as a subsistence harvest for Alaska Natives and First Nations in British Columbia. Previous work has suggested that environmental variables and broad teleconnection indices play a role in the magnitude and phenology of spawning, however the effects of these drivers has not been examined in the context of future climate scenarios. Here we model variability in the timing of herring spawn across British Columbia and Southeast Alaska using survey data from 1951-2022. We created a model using Pacific teleconnection indices, sea surface temperature (SST), tidal height, and lagged data to predict spawn date anomalies (SDAs) across 9 spawning regions. SDAs were significantly affected by the Oceanic Niño Index, Pacific Decadal Oscillation, SST, and lagged SDAs. We then used this model to predict SDAs using projected SST from climate models and bootstrapped teleconnection data from 2025-2100. Future herring spawn timing trends earlier on average with warming SSTs, although the magnitude is relatively small, occurring 9 days earlier on average by 2100. This changing phenology, though small, varied by region and may have ecosystem level ramifications and create timing mismatch for migratory species. However, our findings also reinforce the importance of other physical factors not measured in this study such as photoperiod which drive herring spawn timing.