The linear inversion commonly used in fisheries and zooplankton acoustics assumes a constant inversion kernel and ignores the uncertainties associated with the shape and behavior of the scattering targets, as well as other relevant animal parameters. Here, errors of the linear inversion due to uncertainty associated with the inversion kernel are quantified. A scattering model-based nonlinear inversion method is presented that takes into account the nonlinearity of the inverse problem and is able to estimate simultaneously animal abundance and the parameters associated with the scattering model inherent to the kernel. It uses sophisticated scattering models to estimate first, the abundance, and second, the relevant shape and behavioral parameters of the target organisms. Numerical simulations demonstrate that the abundance, size, and behavior (tilt angle) parameters of marine animals (fish or zooplankton) can be accurately inferred from the inversion by using multi-frequency acoustic data. The influence of the singularity and uncertainty in the inversion kernel on the inversion results can be mitigated by examining the singular values for linear inverse problems and employing a non-linear inversion involving a scattering model-based kernel.