ICES Annual Science Conference 2018

Theme session B

Modernizing fisheries stock assessment and monitoring with genetic methods 

Decision-making for fishing often relies on stock assessments that estimate population size – but these estimates can be unreliable. Traditional assessments often use time-series data that can determine a stock's underlying production, reference points, and biomass. Assessments can be prone to error when, for example, there are changes in the stock distribution relative to the sampling frame of the abundance indices or a lack of observations of the stock declining and rebuilding. Some commercial fish populations are also not covered by current monitoring programmes. In addition, servicing monitoring data needs can be very expensive, and ecosystem-scale assessment methods will further increase costs for monitoring and measurement by agencies. Given these potential errors and costs, looking at alternatives to traditional assessment methods and monitoring are highly relevant for management. 

​While population genetics tools have long been available for stock assessment and management, genetic/genomic methods have the potential to offer alternatives to traditional assessments and monitoring. For example, new studies have used advanced genetic tools to estimate exploitation rates and absolute stock biomass, as well as population and individual fish identification and stock structure. These include genetic mark-recapture for real-time harvest rate monitoring, absolute abundance of adult population size, mortality and age-specific relative reproductive output estimated by close-kin mark-recapture, and parental-based tagging. Environmental DNA (eDNA) techniques promise new methods for monitoring communities and ecosystems. While there is much potential for genetic/genomic methods to improve stock assessment and monitoring, a number of questions need to be addressed in order to realize this potential.

The major objective of this session is to address some of these questions, specifically:

  • What genetic and associated statistical tools are available for resource monitoring and assessment?
  • How can genetic methods for stock assessment and monitoring be applied to fisheries management in practice in order to provide more reliable tools to support integrated fisheries management advice? Are genetic methods suitable for assessing small/local populations, which may not be quantitatively assessed by traditional methods? What is the potential for eDNA to complement/replace current monitoring?
  • Relative to existing techniques, under what circumstances do the genetic methods for stock assessment and monitoring offer more cost effective monitoring and stock assessment? 
  • What practical and technological obstacles need to be overcome in order to apply genetic methods for stock assessment and monitoring?  
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​Conveners: 
Nathan G. Taylor (Canada)
Rich Hillary (Australia)
Pascal Lorance ​(France)
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Theme session B

International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) · Conseil International pour l'Exploration de la Mer (CIEM)
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