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Status of Stocks & Multispecies Assessment Program

National Assessment Methods Working Group Activities

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Spring 2015
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Jim Ianelli chaired the National Assessment Methods Working Group (AMWG) meeting held in Beaufort, North Carolina; AFSC scientists Dana Hanselman and Teresa A’mar attended portions of the meeting remotely. The mission of the working group as stated in their charter is to foster development, testing, and maintenance of high quality assessment methods and to provide tested, well-documented models that efficiently incorporate all available data and provide well-understood and accurate assessments. The breadth of the work extends beyond fish stock assessment methods and includes applications on ecosystem, protected resources, and technical management advice with emphasis on management strategy evaluations. Part of the activities include funding training and education for NMFS staff and potential future. Specific topic areas for the AMWG activities includes oversight of the NOAA Fisheries Toolbox—a collection of computer programs which can be used in fishery stock assessments (nft.nefsc.noaa.gov). The AMWG serves as a steering committee for this effort. The AMWG advises NOAA Fisheries on ways to support the public domain software ADMB. This software is by far the most commonly used tool for stock assessments worldwide and within the United States. NOAA’s contribution presently includes a full-time IT person and part-time administrative person to ensure maintenance and vibrancy of this toolset. 

A major activity of the AMWG involves annual solicitations of projects to improve stock assessment analytical methods. The goal here is to support development, testing, standardization, and documentation of techniques used in statistical analysis and modeling for stock assessments. Awards covered are typically distributed throughout all the science centers and annual support totals about $400k. The AMWG is comprised of two representatives from each center and is coordinated by guidance from the NMFS Office of Science & Technology.

The Beaufort meeting (coordinated to coincide with some Council activities at the neighboring Duke Marine Lab facility) extended for 3 days and covered a variety of topics and culminated in the compilation of an annual report (contact the author for more details). A topic covered at the meeting (and subsequently via email correspondence) included developing a consistent approach for characterizing and reporting fishing intensity (including in the Species Information System [SIS]) across stocks is highly desirable. Current or previously developed metrics either vary in meaning as the overall characteristics of the fishery change (e.g., apical fishing mortality [F], exploitation rate, spawning exploitation rate), represent long-term equilibrium effects (e.g., spawning potential ratio [SPR]), equilibrium stock depletion), or include the total historical fishing impact on extant cohorts (e.g., transitional SPR). A new approach was developed and discussed during the meeting and along with a report of the AMWG activities, will be presented at the 2015 National Stock Assessment Workshop to be held in Portland, Oregon.

In summary, the group focused on technical developments and strategic plans to make the group as effective as possible. This meeting provided an opportunity for more in-depth discussion than occurs on monthly AMWG calls and provided a good opportunity to document working group activities. The workshop covered topics ranging from the National Stock Assessment Workshop, the ADMB Project, stock assessment models currently used by NMFS, and how to best provide support for national stock assessment efforts. Additionally, the AMWG provides feedback to the SIS Coordinator on current issues related to reporting and cataloging stock assessment results nationally. The AMWG remains engaged on this issue, because the SIS database represents one of the main sources of information necessary to facilitate efficient and effective communication of scientific assessment results to Congress and the public.


By Jim Ianelli

 

 

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