Biomass estimation of orange roughy: a summary and evaluation of techniques for measuring stock size of a deep-water fish species in New Zealand


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A number of techniques have been employed to measure biomass of orange roughy in New Zealand. Time series of stratified random trawl surveys in a number of areas over periods of 5–10 years have given relative abundance indices, which have been used in stock reduction analyses to estimate true biomass. This has given confident results for the Chatham Rise stock, and surveys have also shown strong trends in other regions. Acoustic surveys have been carried out on three grounds. They can give relative indices of orange roughy abundance in areas of fiat or medium sloping bottom, and have the potential for estimation of absolute biomass from a single survey. Egg production surveys have been employed on two grounds on the east coast of the North Island, where conditions of tight spawning aggregations and steep bottom topography have limited the success of other methods. Both daily fecundity reduction and annual egg production methods have been used. These have given estimates of true biomass from one-off surveys, although results are imprecise. Both unstandardized and standardized analyses of commercial catch-per-unit-effort data have given relative indices of abundance, which have formed an important part of stock assessment for several fisheries. No single technique used to measure the size of orange roughy stocks has proven ideal or appropriate in all New Zealand situations. All have advantages and disadvantages, depending on the characteristics of the fishing area and fish behaviour. For two areas, a combination of methods have been applied, which has given more confident results than those from a single technique.