The Integrated Fisheries Stock Assessment team conducts evaluations of the current and historical population status of groundfish species off of the U.S. West Coast. For stocks declared overfished, the team conducts analyses of the time necessary to rebuild those stocks. The Pacific Fisheries Management Council and NOAA Fisheries use these reports to set Annual Catch Limits.
The team researches stock assessment methods, optimal management strategies, ecosystem effects on population dynamics, and other fisheries science topics. Team members serve as reviewers throughout the U.S. and internationally, serve on committees that evaluate science, help direct management, and fund research, and collaborate extensively, particularly with the University of Washington and Oregon State University.
Management of fisheries resources requires informed estimates of sustainable catch rates. The Integrated Fisheries Stock Assessment Team develops population models which provide estimates of current and historic population level, productivity and projections of future trends. Rebuilding analyses examine the future status of overfished and rebuilding stocks and the probability of recovery under a variety of harvest strategies. These peer-reviewed assessments and rebuilding analyses provide the scientific basis for the management of the groundfish fisheries off the West Coast of the United States, including the setting of Overfishing Limits (OFLs), Allowable Biological Catches (ABCs), and Annual Catch Limits (ACLs) as mandated by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 2007.
Most groundfish stock assessments are conducted on a biennial schedule (in odd-numbered years) to accommodate the Pacific Fishery Management Council's (PFMC) management process. Major assessments, known as benchmark assessments, are reviewed within the PFMC's Stock Assessment Review process, which includes a multi-day review by a panel comprised of independent reviewers, a member of the PFMC's Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), and representatives from the PFMC's Groundfish Management Team (GMT), and Groundfish Advisory Panel (GAP). The exception to this process is Pacific hake (also known as Pacific whiting), which is managed internationally under a treaty with Canada and assessed annually by a Joint Technical Team comprised of both Canadian scientists and members of the Integrated Fisheries Stock Assessment Team.
Update assessments, which occur between benchmark assessments and involve simply adding the most recent data to previously approved assessments, are reviewed under a far more expedited process. Data-poor and data-moderate assessment methods, a number of which were developed by team members, are used for species or stocks with insufficient data (or insufficient justification) to support the development of a full assessment. More information regarding the current stock assessment and STAR panel schedule can be found on the Pacific Fishery Management Council's website.
The Integrated Fisheries Stock Assessment Team works with FRAM's Observer Program and Survey Teams, as well as with state fishery agencies, to ensure that efficient and effective objectives are established for the collection of the biological data that supports assessment activities as well as developing methods to streamline data extraction, processing and synthesis.