Advancing Ecosystem Modeling of Hypoxia and Diversion Effects on Fisheries in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

NOAA, partners share collaborative vision for healthy Gulf Coast Ecosystem


With the goal of improving environmental and community resilience in the northern Gulf of Mexico, NOAA joined with the State of Louisiana and university researchers to tackle the challenge of sustaining fisheries in coastal Louisiana in the face of two large-scale restoration efforts – Mississippi River diversions and Gulf of Mexico hypoxic (“dead”) zone mitigation. Their discussion points are summarized in a new proceedings paper from the 5th Annual NOAA/NGI Gulf Hypoxia Research Coordination Workshop held July 2014 at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The paper, Advancing Ecosystem Modeling of Hypoxia and Diversion Effects on Fisheries in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, presents fisheries management needs and approaches for addressing ecosystem responses to these large-scale ecosystem restoration efforts. It also presents discussion points to help inform ongoing efforts that strive to achieve a balanced path forward that could restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands while reducing the size of the hypoxic zone and sustaining ecological and socioeconomic benefits of fisheries.

Key to the success of this collaborative approach is the commitment to adaptive management strategies in the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s (CPRA) Coastal Master Plan and the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force’s (Hypoxia Task Force) Action Plan. Both plans support restoration actions that are informed by the best available science and decision-making. Louisiana’s 2012 Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast, includes plans for major river diversions to route sediment and freshwater from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers into coastal marshes in order to maintain, restore and build new wetlands. CPRA developed critical elements of the Master Plan to monitor diversions, more accurately predict future effects, and adjust management strategies, as needed.

The paper addresses the need to incorporate living marine resources, and ecological and socioeconomic effects in adaptive management frameworks and presents priority fisheries management needs from a diverse group of managers, biophysical and social scientists, and stakeholders. The paper also presents suggested ways to best predict and assess the effects of diversions and hypoxia on fisheries through ecological modeling tools. NOAA continues to work with its CPRA and Louisiana Sea Grant partners on how to most effectively develop an adaptive management strategy that will inform the implementation of the state’s protection and restoration plan.


Ashby, S., M. Bundy, V. Fay, R. Fulford, S.D. Giordano, C. Kelble, L, Myles, J.W. Pahl, R. Raynie, and R. Swafford. 2015. Advancing ecosystem modeling of hypoxia and diversion effects on fisheries in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Edited by A.J. Lewitus, D.M. Kidwell, and D. Scheurer. Proceedings Paper from the 5th Annual NOAA/NGI Hypoxia Research Coordination Workshop, 14-16 July 2014 at the Mississippi State University Science and Technology Center at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, 46 pages