April 24, 2014
A new scientific assessment of the butterfish population indicates that the stock is not overfished and that overfishing is not occurring. These findings were detailed in the 58th Stock Assessment Workshop (SAW) Summary Report, which was released by the NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center last month after being approved by a panel of external peer reviewers during the Stock Assessment Review Committee (SARC) process.
The results of this assessment are particularly significant because the status of butterfish had been classified as "unknown" since the previous assessment was completed in 2010 (SAW/SARC 49). Although the SARC 49 review panel had agreed that overfishing was not likely occurring, it did not accept the adequacy of the biological reference points (BRPs) used for stock status determination.
The high degree of uncertainty in the previous assessment was due in part to the biology of the stock. Butterfish are relatively short-lived and experience high rates of natural mortality. These factors make the stock size strongly dependent on recruitment, resulting in high variability in stock size estimates from year to year.