Fisheries Research

Comparing spatial distribution modelling of fisheries data with single-area or spatially-explicit integrated population models, a case study of toothfish in the Ross Sea region

Publication date: January 2020

Source: Fisheries Research, Volume 221

Author(s): Sophie Mormede, Steven J. Parker, Matthew H. Pinkerton


Most models used for assessing the status of fish stocks and providing quantitative advice for fisheries management are not spatially explicit despite the well-known spatial heterogeneity of fish populations. Statistical spatial distribution modelling, which can derive spatially-resolved biomass from catch rates, is a method increasingly used to infer trends in population biomass, particularly where integrated population models are not available. Although the spatial distribution modelling tool VAST was developed to analyze survey data, such methods have also been used with fisheries-dependent catch and effort data, particularly when survey data are not available. We developed a statistical spatial distribution model for Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) in the Ross Sea region of the Southern Ocean using the VAST (Vector Autoregressive Spatio-Temporal model) approach. We based the VAST model on catch-rate (catch per unit effort) data from the long-line fishery and compared the biomass time series obtained to that of existing single-area and spatially-explicit integrated population models which have also been developed for this population. The time series obtained from the statistical spatial distribution modelling approach was highly variable between years, inconsistent with constraints imposed on population dynamics by biological parameters, and substantially different from biomass trends obtained from the integrated models. Although it has been used successfully in other analyses, in this instance, the spatial distribution modelling could not overcome fine-scale spatial and vessel-based variability in fishery catch rates to estimate the underlying abundance of toothfish at the scale of the Ross Sea region measurable with the more-informed integrated models.