Assessing the South African sardine resource: two stocks rather than one?
Sardine Sardinops sagax distributed off the west and south coasts of South Africa have traditionally been assumed to comprise a single well-mixed stock for assessment and management purposes. New research, however, lends weight to the possibility of two stocks in this region. A precautionary management approach thus needs to consider the impact of management decisions on the hypothesised two individual stocks as well as on the resource as a whole. As a first step in this process, Bayesian assessments of South African sardine are presented, which compare results for the traditional single-stock hypothesis with those that follow from a new two-mixing-stock hypothesis. Recruits from the west stock are assumed to move to and remain part of the south stock in annual pulses of varying size. This movement is estimated to be appreciable, and to take place from a substantially more productive west stock to the south stock. This immigration makes a greater contribution to the south-stock biomass than do years of above-average south-stock recruitment. Importantly, this two-mixing-stock hypothesis is shown to be consistent with the data available. Further alternative sardine stock-structure hypotheses suggested by the most recent data are discussed.