Evaluating the impact of climate and demographic variation on future prospects for fish stocks: an application for northern rock sole in Alaska

Climate-enhanced stock assessment models represent potentially vital tools for managing living marine resources under climate change. We present a climate-enhanced stock assessment where environmental variables are integrated within a population dynamics model assessment of biomass, fishing mortality and recruitment that also accounts for process error in demographic parameters. Probability distributions for the impact of the associated environmental factors on recruitment and growth can either be obtained from Bayesian analyses that involve fitting the population dynamics model to the available data or from auxiliary analyses. The results of the assessment form the basis for the calculation of biological and economic target and limit reference points, and projections under alternative harvest strategies. The approach is applied to northern rock sole (Lepidopsetta polyxystra), an important component of the flatfish fisheries in the Eastern Bering Sea. The assessment involves fitting to data on catches, a survey index of abundance, fishery and survey age-compositions and survey weight-at-age, with the relationship between recruitment and cold pool extent and that between growth increment in weight and temperature integrated into the assessment. The projections also allow for an impact of ocean pH on expected recruitment based on auxiliary analyses. Several alternative models are explored to assess the consequences of different ways to model environmental impacts on population demography. The estimates of historical biomass, recruitment and fishing mortality for northern rock sole are not markedly impacted by including climate and environmental factors, but estimates of target and limit reference points are sensitive to whether and how environmental variables are included in stock assessments and projections.

Punt A. E., Dalton M. G., Cheng W., Hermann A. J., Holsman K. K., Hurst T. P., Ianelli J. N., Kearney K. A., McGilliard C., Pilcher D. J. & Veron M., 2021. Evaluating the impact of climate and demographic variation on future prospects for fish stocks: an application for northern rock sole in Alaska. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography: 104951. doi: 10.1016/j.dsr2.2021.104951. Article.


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