Lessons to be learned by comparing integrated fisheries stock assessment models (SAMs) with integrated population models (IPMs)

Michael Schaub*, Mark N. Maunder, Marc Kéry, James T. Thorson, Eiren K. Jacobson, André E. Punt

*Corresponding author for this work

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Integrated fisheries stock assessment models (SAMs) and integrated population models (IPMs) are used in biological and ecological systems to estimate abundance and demographic rates. The approaches are fundamentally very similar, but historically have been considered as separate endeavors, resulting in a loss of shared vision, practice and progress. We review the two approaches to identify similarities and differences, with a view to identifying key lessons that would benefit more generally the overarching topic of population ecology. We present a case study for each of SAM (snapper from the west coast of New Zealand) and IPM (woodchat shrikes from Germany) to highlight differences and similarities. The key differences between SAMs and IPMs appear to be the objectives and parameter estimates required to meet these objectives, the size and spatial scale of the populations, and the differing availability of various types of data. In addition, up to now, typical SAMs have been applied in aquatic habitats, while most IPMs stem from terrestrial habitats. SAMs generally aim to assess the level of sustainable exploitation of fish populations, so absolute abundance or biomass must be estimated, although some estimate only relative trends. Relative abundance is often sufficient to understand population dynamics and inform conservation actions, which is the main objective of IPMs. IPMs are often applied to small populations of conservation concern, where demographic uncertainty can be important, which is more conveniently implemented using Bayesian approaches. IPMs are typically applied at small to moderate spatial scales (1 to 104 km2), with the possibility of collecting detailed longitudinal individual data, whereas SAMs are typically applied to large, economically valuable fish stocks at very large spatial scales (104 to 106 km2) with limited possibility of collecting detailed individual data. There is a sense in which a SAM is more data- (or information-) hungry than an IPM because of its goal to estimate absolute biomass or abundance, and data at the individual level to inform demographic rates are more difficult to obtain in the (often marine) systems where most SAMs are applied. SAMs therefore require more 'tuning' or assumptions than IPMs, where the 'data speak for themselves', and consequently techniques such as data weighting and model evaluation are more nuanced for SAMs than for IPMs. SAMs would benefit from being fit to more disaggregated data to quantify spatial and individual variation and allow richer inference on demographic processes. IPMs would benefit from more attempts to estimate absolute abundance, for example by using unconditional models for capture-recapture data.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106925
Number of pages17
JournalFisheries Research
Early online date5 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • Data integration
  • Management
  • Parameter estimation
  • Population dynamics
  • Population model
  • Uncertainty


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