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Status of Stocks & Multispecies Assessment Program

Update on Groundfish Stock Assessments for the 2013 Fishery

Research Reports
Oct-Nov-Dec 2012
ABL Reports
FMA Reports
NMML Reports
RACE Reports
REFM Reports
Complete Rpt. (pdf)
Quarterly Index
Quarterly Home

The stock assessment and fishery evaluation (SAFE) reports compiled again this year included 50 sections for individual species groups or stocks (split evenly between the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and the Gulf of Alaska (GOA)).  These reports provided the scientific basis for groundfish acceptable biological catch (ABC) and total catch recommendations.  These reports present analyses of the extensive data collected by NMFS-trained observers and AFSC scientists aboard dedicated research surveys.  Observer data are used to estimate catch of target and prohibited species (e.g., salmon, crab, herring, and Pacific halibut) to ensure that fisheries do not exceed annually specified total allowable catches (TACs) or violate other fishery restrictions (like time-area closures).  Results from the AFSC surveys, combined with observer data, are critical for conditioning statistical stock assessment models.  Results from these models (and their estimates of uncertainty) are used to determine the status of individual species and make recommendations for future catch levels.  This TAC-setting process involves annual presentations of these reports at a series of public meetings coordinated by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (NPFMC) staff.

The reports present analyses on individual stocks and/or species groups and provide targets and limits—acceptable biological catches (ABC) and overfishing levels (OFL), respectively.  The NPFMC Groundfish Plan Teams review drafts of these reports during September and November meetings and make recommendations for ABC and OFL levels (one each for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA) regions) for review by the NPFMC Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC).  The SSC then makes the final ABC recommendation to the Council and the Council’s Advisory Panel of industry representatives makes TAC recommendations during the December NPFMC meeting.  Finally, the recommended TAC levels are adjusted (for some species) by the Council to ensure that other constraints (e.g., limiting the sum of all TACs in the BSAI regions to be less than 2 million tons) are met.

Importantly, the following rule applies for each federally managed groundfish stock (or stock complex) in a given year:

Catch < TAC < ABC < OFL

In practice, catch is often less than TAC and TAC is often less than ABC. The multispecies management system is therefore based on the premise that individual components are fished at safe, sustainable levels and that overfishing is avoided.

The Midwater Assessment Conservation Engineering (MACE) Program of the Center’s RACE Division conducted a survey in summer of 2012 covering the main area of the eastern Bering Sea (EBS) and extended into the Russian zone as part of a cooperative agreement. The AFSC’s Auke Bay Laboratory’s (ABL) Marine Ecology and Stock Assessment scientists again conducted the annual longline survey which is designed primarily for sablefish but also produces data used in Greenland turbot and some rockfish assessments.  This survey covers the slope regions of the GOA along with segments of the BSAI region. The groundfish assessment group also conducted bottom-trawl surveys that covered three areas during the summer of 2012: the EBS shelf area, the EBS slope (down to 1,000 m), and the Aleutian Islands.

The ecosystem considerations chapter reports on 74 ecosystem status and management indicators of which 6 were new contributions and 47 others were updated.  These are presented for Council consideration in setting catch limits and other recommendations for management.  Fisheries for these groundfish species during 2011 landed 1.99 million metric tons valued at approximately $2.52 billion after primary processing (Economic Chapter). This represents nearly half of the weight of all commercial fish species landed in the United States. The bulk of the landings are from EBS pollock (landings of about 1.2 million t).  Many of the flatfish stocks (e.g., rock sole, Alaska plaice, and arrowtooth flounder) remain at high levels but catches are relatively low. Yellowfin sole abundance is high but a larger fraction of the ABC is caught compared to other flatfish stocks in the EBS. Atka mackerel biomass abundance is variable and the 2012 survey estimates indicate a relatively sharp decline from recent above-average biomass levels. Rockfish species comprise 5%-8% of the groundfish complex biomass and have generally increasing based on recent surveys. Presently, projections of 2012 spawning biomass for the main groundfish stocks are estimated to be near or above their target stock size (Bmsy) for both the BSAI and GOA regions.  The following presents some assessment highlights by area and for selected species. (continued)


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