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Saltwater sleuths: Seeking clues to help determine the ages of fish and shellfish populations
Date:5/21/2008

ples from cod, haddock and yellowtail flounder on Georges Bank are analyzed for the Transboundary Resource Assessment Committee, or TRAC, which provides assessments necessary to manage the shared resources of the U.S. and Canada in the Gulf of Maine-Georges Bank region.

Between 12,000 and 15,000 samples will be analyzed for the annual summer flounder assessment. Twice a year, several thousand samples are analyzed for stock assessment review committees, known as SARCs, which focus on specific species.

The 2008 Groundfish Assessment Review Meeting (GARM), a series of four meetings culminating in August at NEFSC headquarters in Woods Hole, will review the status of 19 managed groundfish stocks; 13 will require age data. Burnett says his group will analyze about 100,000 samples by June 1 for the GARM, significantly more than the 72,500 age samples analyzed for the last GARM in 2005, which also covered 19 managed stocks.

Ninety-five percent of the groups work is done for stock assessments, the remainder for research. Production aging, as the stock assessment work is called, uses an established methodology and applies it to thousands of samples. It is a skill which takes time to acquire. Burnett has been aging samples for 22 years, Sutherland for 4 years. Other team members have between four months and 27 years of experience aging samples. Given the demand by the 2008 GARM for production aging, research aging has not been a major focus this past year but this is something the group plans to return to soon.

You cant estimate fishing mortality and be able to say anything reliable about stock status unless you know the demographics of the various populations, Burnett says of the importance of age data. It is like the local school department needing to know the ages of students to plan for the future. It is the basis of everything.


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Contact: Shelley Dawicki
shelley.dawicki@noaa.gov
508-495-2378
NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service
Source:Eurekalert

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