Proceedings of the Third World Fisheries Congress: Feeding the World with Fish in the Next Millenium—The Balance between Production and Environment

Quantitative Training in Fisheries: Interactive Software for Teaching Stock Assessment and Modeling in Fisheries Science

Ian W. Montgomery, James P. Scandol


The study of wild fish populations has been a growing area of research over the past 100 years (e.g., Edser 1908; Baranov 1918). In recent decades, mounting pressures on fish stocks have encountered limits to production, resulting in a growing need to manage and protect these stocks more effectively. Maximizing production while preventing overexploitation requires quantitative scientific methods to understand and predict the dynamic processes of aquatic environments. Theoretical progress (see Megrey 1989) and advances in computer technology are providing sophisticated tools for modeling fisheries. Widespread adoption of modeling techniques to provide advice for the management of fisheries has lead to a shortage of workers with the necessary skills.

To tackle this shortage, individuals with quantitative aptitude should be identified and their skills developed. Novel methods of communication and training need to be explored. The role of computers in teaching fisheries modeling needs to be better understood and applied in tertiary institutions that are themselves adapting to new markets and educational strategies.

Management continues to require more robust analyses of stocks. Like many countries, Australia is exploring and, in many cases, implementing quota management systems. This results in additional demands for stock assessment (Walters and Pearse 1996; also see Kaufmann et al. 1999). The shortage of individuals with the necessary knowledge and skills in Australia was recognized by the Australian Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC). It provided funds to the University of Sydney to produce training resources to help rectify this situation. Consequently, the Quantitative Training Unit for Fisheries was formed, with three objectives:

• to create in a tertiary institution a novel unit for developing course work for graduate fisheries biologists and fisheries managers in order to provide world-class training in population dynamics, stock assessment, and other aspects of fisheries science;
• to develop and test (and, as much as possible, deliver) introductory and advanced course work on relevant scientific topics;
• to design and program computer course modules based on the courses as they were developed to provide an ongoing resource for the future training of Australia’s fisheries scientists.

The Quantitative Training Unit for Fisheries (Underwood et al. 2001) was created in early 1995 with an expected duration of 3 years. In 1998, funding was extended for an additional 3 years. The unit has used three strategies to achieve its objectives: courses for fisheries scientists and managers, written notes distributed to these clients, and computer-based instruction (CBI) software to be used both during and after the courses. Some of the earlier written notes were developed into a textbook (Haddon 2001). This Quantitative Training in Fisheries software (Montgomery and Hood 1999) is the focus of this paper.

CBI has been under development for decades. It started with mainframe-based systems in the 1970s (e.g., Plato from Control Data) and migrated to personal computers in the 1980s and 1990s. Implementation of effective CBI tools requires careful consideration of strategy (e.g., Gibbons and Fairweather 1998).