Working group on biological parameters (WGBIOP)
The ICES Working Group on Biological Parameters (WGBIOP) general aim is to review the status of current issues and developments associated with biological parameters, supporting the Data Collection Framework and end user (stock assessment) requirements. WGBIOP continued the work of reviewing past exchanges and workshops for age and maturity organised under the remits of WGBIOP and in line with their above-mentioned aim. The focus was on the stocks to be benchmarked in the coming years and available issue lists used to identify any problems to be addressed. Steps for implementing the output from exchanges and work-shops into the stock assessment models in the form of age error matrices (AEM’s), which are now a standard output in the SmartDots reports, were outlined. SmartDots is an age reading platform that facilitates age readings based on otolith images. The most effective way to investigate this process would be during the benchmark process. The continued efforts to streamline the work-flow of WGBIOP with the benchmark process has not developed any further since the group met in 2018 and will be addressed with the Advisory Committee (ACOM) and the Planning Group on Data Needs for Assessment and Advice (PGDATA) in 2020. Continued investigations into possible new life history parameters for modern assessment included the development of a de-liverable stomach sampling and contents analysis action plan. The need for age validation studies was again highly stressed by the repeated low levels of poor agreement between age readers of some stocks with lack of resources identified as the main ob-stacle. During the scientific session on ‘Age and Maturity Validation Studies’ several experi-ment/studies were presented and discussed, mostly in light of their applicability and in 2020 a list of prioritised stocks to be validated will be finalised. WGBIOP also developed a workplan for the ICES Handbook on maturity staging of marine species. With respect to standardisation of quality assurance procedures at a regional level, the guidelines for age and maturity workshops and exchanges underwent a major review in line with SmartDots development. Suggestions for an improved calculation of modal age were presented and an updated ICES code for otolith reading quality grading was adopted by the group. Efforts will continue to streamline the data and work flow across the Regional Coordination Groups (RCGs), the Working Group on SmartDots Governance (WGSMART) and other relevant groups.