Saturday, August 7, 2010

2010 ASFMC Atlatic Croaker Stock Assessment

According to the 2010 ASFMC stock assessment, "Total reported landings (recreational and commercial) in 2008 were 24.7 million pounds, down from the most recent high of 39.7 million pounds in 2001, but still above the long-term average. Commercial landings make up about 75% of total reported landings. The majority of the landings come from North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia, which report 78% of the coastwide recreational landings and 95% of coastwide commercial landings."

Details of the stock assessment note that Atlantic croaker are a major bycatch in South Atlantic shrimp trawls. Most croaker caught in this fishery are less than 1 year old, too small to be marketed, and thus are discarded. Croaker are one of the largest components of the shrimp trawl catch; some studies found that shrimp trawls caught more croaker than shrimp. There are no continuous monitoring programs to account for these discards. This is a problem because the best available estimates of these landings are, in some years, as large or larger than reported landings.

Because of the high degree of uncertainty in the amount of shrimp trawl discards, the estimated values of stock size and fishing mortality are not considered reliable. The Review Panel stressed the importance of developing valid estimates of shrimp trawl discards to improve the certainty of future stock assessment results.

The issue of croaker bycatch in the South Atlantic shrimp fishery is an example of inter-relationships that exist in fish and seafood habitats. Not only are shrimp and croaker linked, but so are fishermen as issues like this affect a wide range of stakeholders.

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