Examining common assumptions about recruitment: A meta-analysis of recruitment dynamics for worldwide marine fisheries

Cody S. Szuwalski, Katyana A. Vert-Pre, André E. Punt, Trevor A. Branch, Ray Hilborn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

207 Scopus citations


Assumptions about the future productivity of a stock are necessary to calculate sustainable catches in fisheries management. Fisheries scientists often assume the number of young fish entering a population (recruitment) is related to the biomass of spawning adults and that recruitment dynamics do not change over time. Thus, managers often use a target biomass based on spawning biomass as the basis for calculating sustainable catches. However, we show recruitment and spawning biomass are not positively related over the observed range of stock sizes for 61% of 224 stocks in the RAM Legacy Stock Assessment Database. Furthermore, 85% of stocks for which spawning biomass may not drive recruitment dynamics over the observed ranges exhibit shifts in average recruitment, which is often used in proxies for target biomasses. Our results suggest that the environment more strongly influences recruitment than spawning biomass over the observed stock sizes for many stocks. Management often endeavours to maintain stock sizes within the observed ranges, so methods for setting management targets that include changes within an ecosystem may better define the status of some stocks, particularly as climate changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)633-648
Number of pages16
JournalFish and Fisheries
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Ecosystem-based management
  • Global marine fisheries
  • Population dynamics
  • Recruitment
  • Stock assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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