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The sky’s the limit with data limited

September tutorial will immerse students in a world of assessment techniques for data limited stocks. Here, instructors Jim Berkson, Anne Cooper, and Jason Cope answer questions on the course and what students can expect to get from it.
Published: 23 February 2016

​​​​​​​​What are the challenges of assessing stocks with limited data; why is the subject important?
Data and resource limitations will continue to be the rule in fisheries science, not the exception, for most fisheries resources. Even formerly data-rich stocks can become data-limited if monitoring and data collection are reduced. We have always needed these tools, but recently a massive expansion of methods for a variety of different data scenarios have been developed. What we need is to know what options we have, when to use them, and how to express the uncertainty when applying these methods. 

Can you give an overview of the course?
The course will look to build our understanding of data-limited analytical and assessment methods by first reviewing the primary principles of data-limited assessment that is based on life-history theory. We will then follow with an overview of the methods, what parameters and data are needed, and when they could be used. We follow through with applying methods to the all-important step of characterizing the uncertainty in these methods. The course will use both simulated and real data sets, and show a variety of ways we can consider the performance of each method. 

What methods will you explore during the course?
We will look to build from methods relying completely on life-history theory, to catch-only, reduced length and/or age-based data methods, up to flexible modelling frameworks that can incorporate more data as the data become available. Methods will include those in use by ICES, including methods for determining stock status. 

What level of experience should students have before the course, if any?
Some familiarity with R would be a benefit, but not a prerequisite. We will be, for the most part, using a graphical user interface for teaching purposes, but those familiar with R will be able to take further steps with the tools we offer. 

Regarding professional experience, those looking to learn basic stock assessment methods (e.g., students, fisheries managers, and new fisheries analysts), as well as stock assessors who are used to very complex models, but interested in learning what can be done outside that paradigm would directly benefit from this course. Overall, the course is meant to speak to the student and professional; the fisheries scientist, manager and/or policy-maker. Understanding both how these methods work and how they can fit into a management system is something we encourage and highlight. 

What else will the course offer the students?
The course will offer a hands-on environment, not just lecturing. The interactive graphical user interface that will be used in the course will also be given to the students. Students are also highly encouraged to bring their own assessment data to run through examples. Those who take advantage of this will also take away worked examples from familiar data.

The data-limited stock assessment course will take place 12-16 September 2016 in Reykjavik, Iceland.


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​More tha​n 60% of fish stocks that ICES give advice on are classified as category 3 and 4, meaning data and knowledge are insufficient to conduct a full analytical assessment of their state and exploitaion. The turbot (pictured) is one of these. Photo: Fotolia

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The sky’s the limit with data limited

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