Testing of trawl-acoustic stock estimation of spawning capelin 2022
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This report describes the fourth in a series of trawl-acoustic monitoring surveys of the spawning stock of capelin during the migration to the coast. The survey is a response to a proposal from the industry to evaluate the possibility of using winter monitoring of maturing capelin as an input to the capelin assessment and advice. The timing and geographic coverage of the survey are such that the results would be relevant to use for advice given that the output is reliable. Pre-defined areas off the Troms and Finnmark coast were covered using two vessels, Vendla surveying the eastern part and Eros the western part. A stratified random transect design was originally adopted with two complementary zig-zag grids, the first going in a west-east and the second in an east-west direction over the same strata. However, the high capelin abundances north of Varangerhalvøya lead to changes in the design, and a new stratum with increased effort covering the area with high abundance. The biomass estimate we present is based on the second coverage, but evaluation of the mobility of the fish can be done by comparing the coverages. Echo sounders with frequencies from 18-333 kHz were run together with sonars, and target trawls were carried out on significant pelagic aggregations. Capelin abundance was estimated using 38 kHz data. The median biomass of maturing capelin in the coverage area based on 500 bootstrap runs was estimated at 426 618 tons, with a CV of 42%. The 5% lower and 95% upper confidence limits were 167 555 and 757 229 tons, respectively. The confidence bands overlap with the prediction from the autumn 2021, but the wide confidence interval shows that the survey result is uncertain. The high uncertainty despite the good survey coverage is likely due to the very patchy distribution. Capelin aggregations recorded north of Varanger in the eastern coverage area totally dominated in the estimate. Capelin concentrations were also observed in the west, in areas associated with Fugløybanken and Malangsgrunnen, but the capelin abundance in these areas seemed to decrease over the survey period. Capelin at age 3 dominated in the samples and were estimated to constitute more than 6 times the biomass of the other age groups combined. The 3-year-olds had an average length of 15.5 cm and weight 16.3 g. Maturation had progressed further in the western than the eastern area similar as last year, and quite a high proportion of the females sampled towards the end of the survey in the western area were spent. We undertook 7 stations with a submersible probe measuring acoustic target strength of capelin. Preliminary results indicate that the target strength and acoustic frequency response of capelin this year were more in accordance with expectations for capelin than last year. A thorough evaluation of this survey series and its usefulness as input to the capelin advice will be prepared for the capelin benchmark in June this year.