Division Begins New, In-Person Peer Review Process for Stock Assessments The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries recently changed the way it conducts peer reviews of its stock assessments. The division now facilitates the peer review using in-person workshops. The peer reviewers and stock assessment scientists meet for several days to thoroughly review an assessment. This in-person peer review workshop is the process used by regional commissions such as the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and federal councils such as the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council to review their stock assessments. Prior to December 2017, all stock assessments were reviewed through a process known as a desk review. In a desk review, the stock assessment and related materials are sent to the peer reviewers, usually via e-mail, and the reviewers are given a set amount of time to conduct the review. North Carolina is one of the only state fisheries agencies that now routinely conducts in-person peer review workshops for state stock assessments. Meeting in person has greatly improved the process by fostering communication between the reviewers and the stock assessment scientists. The workshops are also open to the public, which improves transparency and public understanding of fisheries stock assessments. Stock assessments tell us how many fish are out there and the harvest rate over time. They are the primary tools used by fisheries managers to assist in determining the status of stocks and developing appropriate management measures to ensure long-term stock sustainability. Stock assessments should be based on sound science and reflect the current best available information. The peer review is essential to ensuring stock assessments are scientifically sound. A peer review is a rigorous evaluation of scientific work by independent and unbiased experts. A peer review of a fisheries stock assessment provides a judgement as to the appropriateness of the science and scientific methods that produced the assessment to ensure decision makers are provided adequate advice. It lends professional objectivity and credibility to the stock assessment process. The peer reviewers are experts in stock assessment science and/or the biology and ecology of the species and are unpaid. The peer review scientists have not been involved in or had input into the development of the stock assessment and have no stake in its outcome. The intent of the peer review is to gain an objective evaluation of the quality of a stock assessment as well as practical suggestions for improvement. Peer review is a well-understood process with a long history within the scientific community. Improvements to this process within the division has led to improved science and more reliable information on which to base management decisions.