Evaluation of sampling strategies for age determination of cod (Gadus morhua) sampled at the North Sea International Bottom Trawl Survey
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionICES Journal of Marine Science. 2020, 77 859-869. 10.1093/icesjms/fsaa013
The North Sea cod stock assessment is based on indices of abundance-at-age from fishery-independent bottom trawl surveys. The age structure of the catch is estimated by sampling fish for otoliths collection in a length-stratified manner from trawl hauls. Since age determination of fish is costly and time consuming, only a fraction of fish is sampled for age from a larger sample of the length distribution and an age–length key (ALK) is then used to obtain the age distribution. In this study, we evaluate ALK estimators for calculating the indices of abundance-at-age, with and without the assumption of constant age–length structures over relatively large areas. We show that the ALK estimators give similar point estimates of abundance-at-age and yield similar performance with respect to precision. We also quantify the uncertainty of indices of abundance and examine the effect of reducing the number of fish sampled for age determination on precision. For various subsampling strategies of otoliths collection, we show that one fish per 5-cm-length group width per trawl haul is sufficient and the total number of fish subsampled for age from trawl surveys could be reduced by at least half (50%) without appreciable loss in precision.