Stock Assessment Prioritization
Stock assessment prioritization allows us to work with regional partners to decide which stocks are assessed each year.
NOAA Fisheries manages ~500 fish stocks. However, we only have data and resources to assess ~200 stocks each year. We need an objective and transparent process to prioritize stocks for assessment. Stock assessment prioritization allows us to work with regional partners to decide which stocks are assessed each year.
Stock assessment prioritization includes:
- Updating existing assessments using established methods and data types
- Upgrading assessments to use new types of data and methods
- First-time assessments for previously unassessed stocks
- Stocks managed under Federal Fishery Management Plans
- Non-Federal stocks that may be assessed using Science Center resources
We developed the prioritization process over several years of collaboration with partners. The result is a national framework for prioritizing stocks. Each region will use this framework to help determine assessment targets and priorities to best meet those targets.
The prioritization framework includes 5 main steps:
- Organize managed stocks into prioritization groups
- Collect data for stocks and use to develop scores
- Identify target assessment level for each stock
- Identify target assessment frequency
- Use the scores from Step 2 and weights provided by regional managers to rank stocks
Steps 1-4 are revisited and updated as necessary. Step 5 occurs each year to develop annual assessment priority ranks.
Target Assessment Level
What is the right level of data inputs and complexity for a stock’s assessment?
High-level assessments provide better forecasts for fisheries management. These assessments also require additional data inputs and can be costly. Only specific situations require this kind of investment. Other stocks can be managed using less data-rich assessments or baseline monitoring. Target Assessment Level allows us to objectively decide what level of assessment is best for each stock’s situation. Assessment levels reflect the types of data that support the assessment, so targets are based on five data input categories: catch, size/age composition, abundance, life history, and ecosystem linkage.
Target Assessment Frequency
What is the ideal interval between assessment updates to meet management needs?
Some stocks need assessments more frequently than others. Target assessment frequencies are driven by a stock’s biology. When a stock’s abundance fluctuates a lot, they need to be assessed more frequently to track changes. This allows us to make sure we are providing responsive fisheries management. If stocks are assessed too frequently, it is an inefficient use of resources and burdens managers with unnecessary adjustments. If stocks are assessed too infrequently, management may be based on information that is out of date. Target Assessment Frequencies are typically between 1-3 years, but may range up to a maximum of 10 years for some stocks.
Annual Assessment Priorities
Each stock is assigned a score in each category based on available data and input from regional experts, and each category is also assigned a weight by regional managers. Scores and weights are multiplied and summed for each stock, and the resulting ranked list represents Annual Assessment Priorities. These ranks provide quantitative, objective information to guide decisions on assessment planning for the next assessment cycle.