Population Dynamics: Stock Assessment Methods Task
Chris Legault, Ph.D., Supv., Research Fishery Biologist
The Stock Assessment Methods Program supports a wide variety of approaches for providing stock assessment results to aid in the development of fishery management plans primarily by Federal Fishery Management Councils and by the states (through Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission).
The Methods Program focuses on developing and implementing a wide variety of analytical methods to enhance the ability of scientists within the Branch and others to conduct stock assessments of the highest quality and reliability. To this end, the Methods Program has led in the development of the NOAA Fisheries Toolbox (NFT). The NFT has incorporated many of the most advanced analytical state of the art models used to assess the state of fishery resources in North America. These include both age structured and age aggregated methods, incorporating traditional approaches such as Virtual Population Analysis (VPA) as well as those that incorporate Bayesian methods. An essential feature of the assessment methods being developed has been the characterization of uncertainty and the ability to conduct risk analyses. The Methods Program is also deeply committed to assist Branch staff with the development of task specific methodology including analyses of sampling strategies for at sea observer programs, spatial analyses of Vessel Monitoring System data for the sea scallop fishery, and design and analysis of depletion experiments.
The goal of the Methods Program is to provide resources and analytical tools to improve our ability to assess the state of fishery resources in the Northeast and elsewhere, consistent with Recommendation 7 of the NMFS Marine Fisheries Stock Assessment Improvement Program. The NOAA Fisheries Toolbox (NFT) provides a suite of state-of-the-art stock assessment models within a standardized framework while maintaining the flexibility required to adapt to specific data requirements.
The objectives of the Methods Program are to: 1) continue to develop new approaches to improve stock assessments and other analytical needs of the Population Dynamics Branch, 2) enhance the capability and flexibility of existing methods, and 3) provide a forum for discussion among scientists on ways to improve productivity and performance of the assessment models. The Methods Program continues to seek input from the scientific community on needs and requirements to make available state-of-the-art methodology for conducting stock assessments and other required analyses to better serve the fishery management process.
Newly developed or enhanced methodology is provided to the stock assessment scientific community via the NOAA Fisheries Toolbox (NFT) which makes a wide variety of assessment models available via the NEFSC website. Documentation of methods contained in the NFT is another important product of the Methods Program. Task-specific analytical tools are also developed in consultation with staff to assist with particular projects.
Improved analytical methods enable the provision of fishery information to several management agencies in the Northwest Atlantic, including the NMFS Regional Office, the New England Fishery Management Council, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, and several international agencies, such as, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization.