An exploratory assessment of the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas stock of bowhead whales using a stochastic population dynamics model

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David Poole
Geof H. Givens

Abstract

The stochastic population dynamics model used by Aboriginal Whaling Management Procedure developers is revised to correct weaknesses related to uncertainty parameterisation and replacement yield estimation. Two variants of this model, along with the standard deterministic version, are used to assess the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas stock of bowhead whales. The variants differ with respect to the magnitude and complexity of the stochastic variation they introduce into natural mortality and birth/calf survival processes. An allowable catch statistic, E (Q0), is defined for appropriate use with stochastic model assessments. Using the same assessment methods, likelihood and priors as IWC (1999a), 5th percentiles of E (Q0) were found to be 117, 106 and 91 for the deterministic, simpler stochastic and extreme stochastic models, respectively. Bayes factor results show that there is no evidence suggesting that either stochastic model should be favoured over any simpler alternative, and the deterministic model yielded the best fit overall. The E (Q0) estimates confirm and strengthen past IWC Scientific Committee inference that under current bowhead subsistence hunting levels the stock should continue to increase towards stabilisation above its maximum sustainable yield level.

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