Hoenig Home Page

John M. Hoenig

Adjunct Faculty

Retired: 2022
Section: Natural Resources
Email: [[hoenig]]
Phone: (757) 634-2408
Interests: Fisheries stock assessment/management; methods for studying dynamics and assessing fisheries.
Office: Nunnally Hall 134

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  • B.S., Cornell University
  • M.S., University of Rhode Island (biological oceanography)
  • M.S., University of Rhode Island (statistics)
  • Ph.D., University of Rhode Island (biological oceanography)
Research Interests

I'm interested in developing methods for studying population dynamics and assessing fisheries including determining appropriate management options. I use statistical theory, mathematical modeling, and computer simulation to develop methods for interpreting tagging, survey, catch, effort, and age data, and just about any other type of data available. Specific interests include sport fisheries, commercial fisheries for invertebrates, elasmobranch life history and fisheries, tropical fisheries, Indian treaty rights to fish, and conflict resolution through technical analysis. 

My current research focuses on  

  • Forecasting years in which recruitment will be poor using environmental variables (see Gross et al. 2022)
  • Estimating fishing gear selectivity for size (lobster, whelk) and age (red drum) using novel methods 
  • Estimating the absolute abundance of Red Snapper and Greater Amberjack from large-scale surveys 

My research has led me to

  • Estimate which river stocks of American shad are being caught in pound nets that catch a mixed stock assemblage,
  • Determine the survival rate of discarded fish (sharks),
  • Estimate the efficiency of a scallop dredge in order to determine the biomass of scallops and set a catch quota,
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of a marine sanctuary for blue crabs,
  • Estimate actual and potential rates of population growth of barndoor skates and lemon sharks,
  • Estimate survival rates and break the total mortality rate into its components (fishing mortality and "other mortality"), with applications to lake trout, red drum, rock lobster, blue crab, and striped bass.

Determining the Natural Mortality Rate

The instantaneous natural mortality rate (M) is an important input for most stock assessments. But, measuring or determining this rate directly is a substantial task. Consequently, for most stock assessments a value of M is determined indirectly from the correlation between M and more easily measured life history characteristics such as maximum age or von Bertalanffy growth parameters. The two seminal papers are Pauly (1982, J. du Conseil) and Hoenig (1983). However, these papers are now out of date. My former student, Amy Then, compiled a large database and used it to update the equations of both Pauly and Hoenig. I strongly urge people to stop using outdated equations and consult the following paper:

Then, A.Y., J.M. Hoenig, N.G. Hall and D.A. Hewitt. 2015. Evaluating the predictive performance of empirical estimators of natural mortality rate using information on over 200 fish species. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 72:82-92.

Research Highlights
Current Projects
  • Estimating the size of the population of Greater Amberjack in the US waters of the Gulf of Mexico and along the East Coast of the US using a variety of survey methods (with Grace Chiu (VIMS) and a coalition of researchers throughout the study region)
  • Estimating the size selectivity of traps for European lobster using a V-notching program (with Natalie Hold, Univ. of Bangor)
  • Estimating the age selectivity of purse seines and bottom longlines for red drum using a novel approach utilizing fish kill data (with S. Powers, C. Hightower and J. Plumlee, Univ. of S. Alabama)
  • Studying the growth of tropical tunas (with Lynn Waterhouse, USGS/Univ. of Minn.)
Advice on Writing Theses, Preparing PowerPoint Presentations and Making Posters
Advice to Prospective Students
Advice on Analyzing Data
Software for Stock Assessment and Statistical Analysis
Selected Publications

Click here for a complete list of publications

*publications with students

  • *Gross, J.M., P. Sadler, and J.M. Hoenig. 2022. Evaluating a possible new paradigm for recruitment dynamics: predicting poor recruitment for striped bass (Morone saxatilis) from an environmental variable. Fisheries Res. 252, article 106329.  
  • de Lestang, S., J.M. Hoenig and J. How. 2022. Development of an individual-based tag recapture model to benchmark biomass and harvest rates in an iconic lobster fishery. Bull. Mar. Sci. 98:27-50.
  • Waterhouse, L., L. Ailloud, *R. Austin, W.J. Golet, A. Pacicco, A.H. Andrews, K. Diouf, Y. Ndiour, K. Krusic-Golub, G. da Silva, and J.M. Hoenig. 2022. Updated Growth Model for Bigeye Tuna (Thunnus obesus) in the Atlantic Ocean. Fisheries Res. 253, article 106317. 
  • * Omori, K.L., C.A. Tribuzio, E.A. Babcock and J.M. Hoenig. 2021. Methods for Identifying Species Complexes Using a Novel Suite of Mutlivariate Approaches and Multiple Data Sources: a Case Study with Gulf of Alaska Rockfish.  Frontiers in Marine Science 8. 
Current Students
  • Julie Gross
Past Students

Liese Carleton. M.A.S. 2022 . (supervised with M. Mitchell)

Kristen Omori. Ph.D. 2021.

Dissertation: Dealing with many species: improving methodology for forming and assessing species complexes. Awarded the Maury Fellowship, 2017.

Lisa Ailloud. Ph.D. 2018. 

Dissertation :  Improving stock assessments and management advice for Bluefin tunas and other highly migratory species.

Awarded the John and Marilyn M. Zeigler Award, May 2019. 

Quang Huynh. Ph.D. 2017. 

Dissertation :  Extensions and applications of mean length mortality estimators for assessment of data-limited fisheries.

Awarded the John M. and Marilyn Zeigler Student Achievement Award, May 2018. 

Kristen Omori. M.S. 2015.    
Thesis: Developing Methodologies for Studying Elasmobranchs and Other Data-Poor Species. 

Amy Then. Ph.D. 2014.
Dissertation: Studies of Mortality Estimation.

Lynn Waterhouse. M.S. 2011. (co-advisor with Mary Fabrizio).
Thesis: Partial Year Tagging Models: accounting for changing tag visibility and delayed mixing.

Todd Gedamke. Ph.D. 2006. (co-advisor with Bill DuPaul and Jack Musick).

Dissertation: Developing a stock assessment for the barndoor skate (Dipturus laevis) in the Northeast United States.

Awarded the John M. and Marilyn Zeigler Student Achievement Award, May 2007. See the write-up in Fisheries magazine about Todd.

John Walter. Ph.D. 2006. Dissertation: Incorporating aspects of space into stock assessment of several marine species.

Debra Lambert. M.S. (co-advisor with Romuald Lipcius) 2005. Thesis: Estimation of annual and semi-annual survival of adult female blue crabs and assessment of the effectiveness of the Virginia blue crab sanctuary using tag-return methodology.
Awarded the John M. and Marilyn Zeigler Student Achievement Award, May, 2006. 

Donna Grusha. M.S. 2005.
Thesis: Investigation of the life-history of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus (Mitchill 1815).

Stewart Frusher. Ph.D. 2001. Dissertation: Evaluation of techniques for estimating fishery assessment parameters in the Tasmanian rock lobster fishery. (I was co-supervisor of this student at the University of Tasmania). 


Courses Taught/Teaching
  • MS 561 Statistical and Graphical Analysis Using R
  • MS 670 Stock Assessment Methods
  • MS 697 Stock Assessment Review Internship program with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea

  • MS 698 Advanced Programming in R

Student Awards
  • 2019. Lisa Ailloud. John and Marilyn Zeigler Award
  • 2018. Quang C. Huynh. John and Marilyn Zeigler Award
  • 2017. Lisa Ailloud. Dean’s Fellowship
  • 2017. Kristen Omori. Maury Fellowship from VIMS
  • 2015. Quang Huynh.  best student paper award + travel support from Alaska Sea Grant
  • 2015. Lisa Ailloud. student travel award, tuna camp
  • 2015. Lisa Ailloud. student travel award, AFS Marine Fisheries Section
  • 2015. Lisa Ailloud. student travel award, ICES
  • 2015. Kristen Omori. student travel award, Assoc. Dean for Grad. Studies + AIFRB award
  • 2015. Quang Huynh. NMFS/Sea Grant Population Dynamics Fellowship
  • 2015. Lisa Ailloud. NMFS/Sea Grant Population Dynamics Fellowship
  • 2014. Kristen Omori awarded VIMS Council Fellowship
  • 2014. Lisa Ailloud awarded one year of financial support from VIMS
  • 2012. Kristen Omori awarded a VIMS Council Fellowship from the VIMS Foundation.
  • 2011. Matt Smith awarded a three-year NMFS/Sea Grant graduate fellowship in population dynamics.
  • 2011. Amy Then awarded a Ferguson Enterprise Fellowship from the VIMS Foundation.
  • 2011. (former student) Lynn Waterhouse awarded a travel grant from the Estuaries Section of the American Fisheries Society to present her research at the annual meeting in Seattle.
  • 2010. Amy Then awarded a travel grant from the Estuaries Section of the American Fisheries Society to attend the Society's annual meeting in Pittsburgh.
Recent Awards to Dr. Hoenig
  • 2016. Awarded a Plumeri Faculty Excellence Award from the College of William and Mary. 
  • 2010-2011. Awarded a Visiting Scholar Fellowship at the University of Tasmania.
  • 2010. Awarded a research visiting fellowship by Tokyo University of Fisheries and Marine Technology.
Additional Information
Favorite Seafood Recipes