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Status of Stocks & Multispecies Assessment Program

International Council for Exploration of the Sea Benchmark Workshop on Northern Haddock Stocks

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Status of Stocks & Multispecies Assessment program staff member Dr. Paul Spencer served as an external reviewer at the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) Benchmark Workshop on Northern Haddock Stocks, which was held in Copenhagen, Denmark 24-28 February 2014. The external review panel was chaired by Dr. Noel Cadigan (Memorial University, Canada) and also included Dr. Kristin Kleisner (NOAA/NEFSC, USA).

Key issues discussed included an evaluation of genetic and non-genetic evidence for stock separation between the current North Sea and west of Scotland stocks, choice of assessment methodology, and inference of population density in untrawlable areas. Key recommendations included combining the North Sea and West of Scotland stocks into a single assessment (due to fish movement between areas at early life stages) but partitioning of harvest between areas in proportion to survey biomass (due to limited movement at the adult stages). Additionally, the TSA (Time Series Analysis) model (an age-structured state-space model) was recommended for the assessment methodology.

The workshop was relevant to AFSC assessments, as the topics of stock structure, untrawlable grounds, and state-space models have also been topics discussed during recent meetings of the NPFMC groundfish plan teams. 

By Paul Spencer 

AFSC Scientists Present Research at Western Groundfish Conference

The 18th semi-annual meeting of the Western Groundfish Conference was held in Victoria, British Columbia, 10-14 February 2014.  The meeting was well attended by scientists the AFSC and the NMFS Alaska Regional Office.  All AFSC attendees shared recent research in either poster or oral presentation format.  The meeting was smaller than in past years, but still provided 137 scientists a chance to see new research results, get new ideas, and have face-to-face contact with collaborators and colleagues from  the west coast of the United States and Canada.  Attendees came from 5 countries and represented 10 universities, 7 regulatory agencies, 3 non-governmental organizations, and the fishing industry.  As is usual for this conference, many of the talks focused on rockfish, sablefish, and ling cod, but other taxa from pollock to octopus also were included.  The effectiveness of marine protected areas was discussed in several talks, and there were a number of presentations on modeling of data-poor stocks from students and faculty at Oregon State University.  Other popular topics included ageing methods and otolith chemistry; the use of underwater cameras and ROVs for groundfish assessment; and bycatch control for halibut and seabirds.  The keynote speaker, Dr. Verena Tunnicliffe from the University of Victoria, showed astounding pictures from her years of deep underwater research with submersibles and ROVs as well as data from development of the world’s first cabled seafloor observatory in the Strait of Georgia.  Socials, a poster session, and catered lunches each day of the meeting provided lots of opportunity for networking and sharing of ideas. The full schedule from the meeting and many of the presentations may be viewed at

By Elizabeth Conners


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