Review of fishery stock assessments set to begin

Published: Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 11:35 AM.

Federal officials are poised to begin a review of fishery stock assessments, a multi-step process used to estimate fish populations that then serve as the basis for catch limits and season end dates.


The review, requested this month by a bipartisan panel of U.S. senators, will focus on the data and methodology behind the assessments, which critics say may be based on faulty and incomplete data.

“(The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) may not be placing a high enough priority on conducting robust, peer-reviewed stock assessments on fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and in the South Atlantic ,” says the letter, signed by Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and sent last week to the Government Accountability Office. “This lack of empirical data forces fishery council managers ... to rely on what the councils have referred to in Congressional testimony as ‘flawed’ and incomplete science.”

Conducted by NOAA Fisheries, the stock assessments of each species consist of three data sets: the amount of fish caught each season by fishermen, the number of living fish in the ocean and biological information, including how long a species tends to live and how fast it grows.

“The data from those three categories go together into assessment models,” said Rick Methot, senior scientist for stock assessments with NOAA Fisheries. “It’s basically a mathematical model that uses the information to estimate how many fish are out there, the rate of fishing and to forecast what level of catch in the next few years would be sustainable.”



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