New ocean forecasting technology to help B.C. fisheries

New technology out of the University of Washington can predict ocean conditions two to four months away.

New forecaster will help maintain and sustain fisheries, says researcher

A new regional ocean forecaster has proved it can predict oxygen levels, acidity, and in some cases, the chance of sardines up to four months into the future.  

"That will give industry the information it needs to weather changes that are happening in our local waters,"  said Samantha Siedlecki, a research scientist who worked on the model for the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Oceanography at the University of Washington.

Up until this point, scientists were using real-time data beamed from buoys floating off the coast and available over the internet.

"But that doesn't give you much time from when the water is out there and when that water comes into that bay that you are interested in," said Siedlecki.

That's important for your average oyster farmer whose livelihood depends on levels of ocean acidification. The more corrosive or stressed the ocean water, the more difficult it is for things like oyster larvae.

"The idea to do this is to try and support the fishing industry and the fisheries in general, to give them information, and inform them in order to be able to maintain and sustain fisheries," said Siedlecki.

Cloudy with a chance of sardines

After returning from nothing in the 1990s, sardines are once again on the decline

Predicting when and where a species will be is especially helpful for fisheries managers.

"The idea there is that they have a northern extent," said Siedlecki. "And so, the forecast is attempting to determine when there will be more sardines in British Columbia waters and when there won't."

They used environmental data like sea surface height, temperature and salinity mixed with chlorophyll levels — something that indicates levels of surface phytoplankton, a floating organism that sardines feed on.    

But the team had the best results predicting deep temperatures with species like hake.

"In these waters, this is something we can do," said Siedlecki.

The next species on the list is crab.  

With files from Kamil Karamali