Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 35-63

First online:

Fisheries stock assessment and decision analysis: the Bayesian approach

  • ANDRE E. PUNTAffiliated withDivision of Marine Research, CSIRO
  • , RAY HILBORNAffiliated withSchool of Fisheries, University of Washington

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The Bayesian approach to stock assessment determines the probabilities of alternative hypotheses using information for the stock in question and from inferences for other stocks/species. These probabilities are essential if the consequences of alternative management actions are to be evaluated through a decision analysis. Using the Bayesian approach to stock assessment and decision analysis it becomes possible to admit the full range of uncertainty and use the collective historical experience of fisheries science when estimating the consequences of proposed management actions. Recent advances in computing algorithms and power have allowed methods based on the Bayesian approach to be used even for fairly complex stock assessment models and to be within the reach of most stock assessment scientists. However, to avoid coming to ill-founded conclusions, care must be taken when selecting prior distributions. In particular, selection of priors designed to be noninformative with respect to quantities of interest to management is problematic. The arguments of the paper are illustrated using New Zealand's western stock of hoki, Macruronus novaezelandiae (Merlucciidae) and the Bering--Chukchi--Beaufort Seas stock of bowhead whales as examples