Ices Journal of Marine Science
It is generally difficult to obtain reliable direct estimates of natural mortality, M, from conventional fisheries data and stock assessments. However, as a result of the closure of the Shetland sandeel (Ammodytes marinus) fishery from 1991 to 1994 and in the absence of any significant fishery in other years, research vessel survey data offer a rare opportunity to obtain estimates of M directly. A model is described that assumes that M can be decomposed into an age effect and year effects. Application of the model to the survey data produces values of M that decline from 2.1 for 0-group fish to 0.6 at age 2. There is some indication of an increase for ages 4 and older. Although there does not appear to be an overall trend in the mean value of M for the period 1985-1999, the annual values change by up to 50%. The values calculated from the model are in line with estimates obtained for the North Sea from multispecies virtual population analysis (MSVPA).