Scientists Re-examine Northeast Groundfish Biological Production and Rebuilding -- March 19, 2002

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Teri Frady
PH: (508) 495-2239
Chief of
Research Communications

NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center


Woods Hole, Mass.ľA group of scientists today released a summary of a report that that re-evaluates biological reference points for New England groundfish. The report represents an intensive technical effort to update baseline biological targets and analytical methods used to evaluate rebuilding progress in groundfish stocks, as well as fishing effort during the transition to sustainable fisheries.

The working group's summary report is available online in pdf format. Tables are included. Results of the report were presented to the New England Fishery Management Council today in Mystic, Connecticut. That presentation also is available in a Powerpoint format. The full report is available here.

The working group incorporated new data from observations of rebuilding stocks (some of which have been at very depleted levels in recent decades). The report compares results obtained for each stock using various models and methods, and evaluates which proved most reliable for estimating long-term potential catch, maximum obtainable biomass, and sustainable fishing rates. Finally, revised projections are presented for catches allowed in order to rebuild by 2009, if possible.

The 12 regulated groundfish species comprise 19 stocks. The results released today show that catches from rebuilt stocks can be larger than previously indicated for eight stocks; smaller for five stocks; and remain the same as previously indicated for the remaining six. Groundfish catches in 2001 (about 69.2 mt) represent just 36% of the potential sustainable annual catch from a rebuilt groundfish complex (192.9 mt).

The estimated rebuilt biomass (total for some, total spawning stock biomass for others, survey kg/tow for the remainder) increased for eleven stocks, decreased for two, and stayed the same for four. The method for determining maximum biomass changed for the remaining two stocks, so the present estimate is not easily compared to the previous estimate.

Two stocks (redfish and Georges Bank cod) are not likely to rebuild within 10 years even if no fishing occurs. Two stocks (Southern New England yellowtail flounder and white hake) require rebuilding, but the fishing rate to achieve rebuilding in 10 years is uncertain. Two stocks (witch flounder and Georges Bank winter flounder) do not require rebuilding, but should be fished at a sustainable rate.

Twelve stocks are reported to be at less than half of the potential weight of a rebuilt stock. Five are more than half-way to the maximum. One stock is estimated to be larger than the estimated maximum.

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