Quantifying uncertainty in the wild‐caught fisheries goal of the Ocean Health Index


Sustainability indices are proliferating, both to help synthesize scientific understanding and inform policy. However, it remains poorly understood how such indices are affected by underlying assumptions of the data and modelling approaches used to compute indicator values. Here, we focus on one such indicator, the fisheries goal within the Ocean Health Index (OHI), which evaluates the sustainable provision of food from wild fisheries. We quantify uncertainty in the fisheries goal status arising from the (a) approach for estimating missing data (i.e., fish stocks with no status) and (b) reliance on a data‐limited method (catch‐MSY) to estimate stock status (i.e., B/BMSY). We also compare several other models to estimate B/BMSY, including an ensemble approach, to determine whether alternative models might reduce uncertainty and bias. We find that the current OHI fisheries goal model results in overly optimistic fisheries goal statuses. Uncertainty and bias can be reduced by (a) using a mean (vs. median) gap‐filling approach to estimate missing stock scores and (b) estimating fisheries status using the central tendency from a simulated distribution of status scores generated by a bootstrap approach that incorporates error in B/BMSY. This multitiered approach to measure and describe uncertainty improves the transparency and interpretation of the indicator and allows us to better understand uncertainty around our OHI fisheries model and outputs for country‐level interpretation and use.

In Fish & Fisheries