The determination of data-poor catch limits in the United States: is there a better way?

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Abstract

Methods for determining appropriate management actions for data-poor stocks, including annual catch limits (ACLs), have seen an explosion of research interest in the past decade. We perform an inventory of methods for determining ACLs for stocks in the United States, and find that ACLs are assigned to 371 stocks and/or stock complexes with 193 (52%) determined using methods involving catch data only. The proportion of ACLs involving these methods varies widely among fisheries management regions, with all the 67 ACLs in the Caribbean determined using recent catch when compared with 1 of 33 ACLs in the New England region (US Northeast). Given this prevalence of data-poor ACLs, we recommend additional research regarding the potential effectiveness of simple management procedures for data-poor stocks that are currently managed using ACLs. In particular, simple management procedures may allow a broader range of data types and management instruments that better suit the particulars of individual regions and stocks.

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