Quantifying annual variation in catchability for commercial and research fishing


Francis, Chris R. I. C., Rosemary J. Hurst, andJames A. Renwick
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Biomass indices, from commercial catch per unit of effort (CPUE) or random trawl surveys, are commonly used in fisheries stock assessments. Uncertainty in such indices, often expressed as a coefficient of variation (CV), has two components: observation error, and annual variation in catchability. Only the former can be estimated directly. As a result, the CVs used for these indices either ignore the annual-variation component or assume a value for it (often implicitly). Two types of data for New Zealand stocks were examined: 48 sets of residuals and catchability estimates from stock assessments using either CPUE or trawl survey indices; and biomass estimates from 17 time series of trawl surveys with between 4 and 25 species per time series. These data show clear evidence of significant annual variation in catchability. With the trawl survey data, catchability was detectably extreme for many species in about one year in six. The assessment data suggest that this annual variability typically has a CV of about 0.2. For commercial CPUE the variability is slightly less, and a typical total CV (including both components) of 0.15 to 0.2. This is much less than the values of 0.3 to 0.35 that have commonly been assumed in New Zealand. Some estimates of catchability are shown to be implausible.