Risk assessment of cartilaginous fish populations
We review three broad categories of risk assessment methodology used for cartilaginous fish: productivity-susceptibility analysis (PSA), demographic methods, and quantitative stock assessments. PSA is generally a semi-quantitative approach useful as an exploratory or triage tool that can be used to prioritize research, group species with similar vulnerability or risk, and provide qualitative management advice. Demographic methods are typically used in the conservation arena and provide quantitative population metrics that are used to quantify extinction risk and identify vulnerable life stages. Stock assessments provide quantitative estimates of population status and the associated risk of exceeding biological reference points, such as maximum sustainable yield. We then describe six types of uncertainty (process, observation, model, estimation, implementation, and institutional) that affect the risk assessment process, identify which of the three risk assessment methods can accommodate each type of uncertainty, and provide examples mostly for sharks drawn from our experience in the United States. We also review the spectrum of stock assessment methods used mainly for sharks in the United States, and present a case study where multiple methods were applied to the same species (dusky shark, Carcharinus obscurus) to illustrate differing degrees of model complexity and type of uncertainty considered. Finally, we address the common and problematic case of data-poor bycatch species. Our main recommendation for future work is to use Management Strategy Evaluation or similar simulation approaches to explore the effect of different sources of uncertainty, identify the most critical data to satisfy predetermined management objectives, and develop harvest control rules for cartilaginous fish. We also propose to assess the performance of data-poor and -rich methods through stepwise model construction.