Quirky patterns in time-series of estimates of recruitment could be artefacts

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Abstract

The accessibility of databases of global or regional stock assessment outputs is leading to an increase in meta-analysis of the dynamics of fish stocks. In most of these analyses, each of the time-series is generally assumed to be directly comparable. However, the approach to stock assessment employed, and the associated modelling assumptions, can have an important influence on the characteristics of each time-series. We explore this idea by investigating recruitment time-series with three different recruitment parameterizations: a stock-recruitment model, a random-walk time-series model, and non-parametric “free” estimation of recruitment. We show that the recruitment time-series is sensitive to model assumptions and this can impact reference points in management, the perception of variability in recruitment and thus undermine meta-analyses. The assumption of the direct comparability of recruitment time-series in databases is therefore not consistent across or within species and stocks. Caution is therefore required as perhaps the characteristics of the time-series of stock dynamics may be determined by the model used to generate them, rather than underlying ecological phenomena. This is especially true when information about cohort abundance is noisy or lacking.

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