A framework for assessing the skill and value of operational recruitment forecasts

Christian Kiaer, Stefan Neuenfeldt, Mark R. Payne*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Forecasting variation in the recruitment to fish stocks is one of the most challenging and long-running problems in fisheries science and essentially remains unsolved today. Traditionally, recruitment forecasts are developed and evaluated based on explanatory and goodness-of-fit approaches that do not reflect their ability to predict beyond the data on which they were developed. Here, we propose a new generic framework that allows the skill and value of recruitment forecasts to be assessed in a manner that is relevant to their potential use in an operational setting. We assess forecast skill based on predictive power using a retrospective forecasting approach inspired by meteorology, and emphasize the importance of assessing these forecasts relative to a baseline. We quantify the value of these forecasts using an economic cost-loss decision model that is directly relevant to many forecast users. We demonstrate this framework using four stocks of lesser sandeel (Ammodytes marinus) in the North Sea, showing for the first time in an operationally realistic setting that skilful and valuable forecasts are feasible in two of these areas. This result shows the ability to produce valuable short-term recruitment forecasts, and highlights the need to revisit our approach to and understanding of recruitment forecasting.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfsab202
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)3581-3591
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Ecological forecasting
  • Forecast value
  • Predictive skills
  • Recruitment forecasting


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