Limits to the reliability of size-based fishing status estimation for data-poor stocks

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For stocks which are considered “data-poor” no knowledge exist about growth, mortality or recruitment. The only available information is from catches. Here we examine the ability to assess the level of exploitation of a data-poor stock based only on information of the size of individuals in catches. The model is a formulation of the classic Beverton–Holt theory in terms of size where stock parameters describing growth, natural mortality, recruitment, etc. are determined from life-history invariants. A simulation study was used to compare the reliability of assessments performed under different information availability scenarios, from data-limited, where none of the parameters are known beforehand, to different degrees of information availability cases where one or more parameters are known. If no parameters are known it is possible to correctly assess whether the fishing mortality is below Fmsy in more than 60% of the cases, and almost always correctly assess whether a stock is subject to overfishing. Adding information about age, i.e., assuming that growth rate and asymptotic size are known, does not improve the estimation. Only knowledge of the ratio between mortality and growth led to a considerable improvement in the assessment. Overall, the simulation study demonstrates that it may be possible to classify a data-poor stock as undergoing over- or under-fishing, while the exact status, i.e., how much the fishing mortality is above or below Fmsy, can only be assessed with a substantial uncertainty. Limitations of the approach are discussed
Original languageEnglish
JournalFisheries Research
Pages (from-to)4-11
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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