We facilitated a scientific peer review of the 2020 California halibut stock assessment on behalf of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife


California halibut (Paralichthys californicus) is a large, predatory flat fish that lives in nearshore, soft bottom ocean habitat. Populations have been fished actively since before the beginning of California landings records in 1916 and continue to support important commercial and recreational fisheries off California. To ensure that fishing levels are sustainable and do not result in an overfished stock, managers develop stock assessments that establish the status of the fishery resource. Stock assessments are a highly informative management tool used by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to monitor the abundance of fish populations, determine the level at which a resource may be sustainably exploited, and sometimes to predict the consequences of policy decisions. External, independent peer review of the scientific underpinnings of the stock assessment is one way to provide the CDFW and stakeholders assurances that it is based upon the best readily available scientific information.

California Ocean Science Trust is serving the State by convening an independent scientific peer review panel that will review the underlying scientific and technical merits of the draft stock assessment, ensuring the science underpinning this process represents the best scientific information available and is appropriately used.

Scope of Review

CDFW is seeking an independent assessment of whether the technical components, models, analysis techniques and the applications of the analyses that underpin the draft stock assessment are applied in a manner that is scientifically sound, reasonable, and appropriate. Ocean Science Trust worked closely with CDFW to develop a terms of reference that captures the scope and process of the review, focused on key components of the stock assessment where independent scientific review would be most valuable.

Review Process

  1. Select a review mode. A combined in-person and remote review process (adapted to a remote-only setup in light of California’s shelter in place order) was selected in consultation with CDFW to promote core review principles.
  2. Assemble review team. Ocean Science Trust will convene a diverse 3-4 member review panel composed of stock assessors and other experts.
  3. Conduct review. CDFW will engage directly with reviewers at the outset, providing two-way interaction. The review will then proceed via both in-person and remote meetings, maintaining candid and independent assessment.
  4. Develop and share final report. Reviewers will contribute to the development of a final summary report, which will be made available online once complete.

Engagement Opportunities
Stakeholder Webinars to Share Peer Review Process and Results. A public webinar will be held at the close of the review to share the process, goals, and results of the peer review. The peer review panel (or a subset thereof) will present on their process and findings and be available to answer questions.
Webinar Date: TBD


  • Dr. Edward Dick, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center (panel Chair)
  • Dr. Kiva Oken, University of California Davis
  • Dr. David Sampson, Oregon State University
  • Dr. Chantel Wetzel, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center
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