How uncertain are fisheries stock assessments?

Fish catch limits are set based on the results of complex fisheries stock assessment models, which are somewhat like weather forecast models, but for fish populations. An examination of historical assessments of Australian fisheries has determined that there is considerable uncertainty in estimates of fish biomass, with a 95% chance that stock assessment estimates of spawning biomass are within half to double of the best estimates. These results are similar to those found in a previous analysis of U.S. west coast fisheries, implying that managers need to take into account this model uncertainty when setting catch limits. The research by SAFS director André Punt and graduate student Kristin Privitera-Johnson, and their many coauthors, appears in the journal Fisheries Research.

Trends in adult fish weight over time according to different fisheries stock assessments. Solid lines show the most recent assessment.
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