Using productivity and susceptibility indices to assess the vulnerability of United States fish stocks to overfishing


Patrick, Wesley S., Paul Spencer, Jason Link, Jason Cope, John Field, Donald Kobayashi, Peter Lawson, Todd Gedamke, Enric Cortés, Olav Ormseth, Keith Bigelow, and William Overholtz
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Assessing the vulnerability of stocks to fishing practices in U.S. federal waters was recently highlighted by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as an important factor to consider when 1) identifying stocks that should be managed and protected under a fishery management plan; 2) grouping data-poor stocks into relevant management complexes; and 3) developing precautionary harvest control rules. To assist the regional fishery management councils in determining vulnerability, NMFS elected to use a modified version of a productivity and susceptibility analysis (PSA) because it can be based on qualitative data, has a history of use in other fisheries, and is recommended by several organizations as a reasonable approach for evaluating risk. A number of productivity and susceptibility attributes for a stock are used in a PSA and from these attributes, index scores and measures of uncertainty are computed and graphically displayed. To demonstrate the utility of the resulting vulnerability evaluation, we evaluated six U.S. fisheries targeting 162 stocks that exhibited varying degrees of productivity and susceptibility, and for which data quality varied. Overall, the PSA was capable of differentiating the vulnerability of stocks along the gradient of susceptibility and productivity indices, although fixed thresholds separating low-, moderate-, and highly vulnerable species were not observed. The PSA can be used as a flexible tool that can incorporate regional-specific information on fishery and management activity.