Draft Fishery Management Plan for Spotted Seatrout in North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission Meeting Kitty Hawk March 24, 2010
FMP GOAL Determine the status of the stock and ensure long-term sustainability for the spotted seatrout stock in North Carolina.
FMP Objectives 1. Develop an objective management program that provides conservation of the resource and sustainable harvest in the fishery. • Ensure the spawning stock is of sufficient capacity to prevent recruitment-overfishing. • Address socio-economic concerns for all user groups.
FMP Objectives (cont) • Restore, improve, and protect important habitats that affect growth, survival, and reproduction of the stock. • Evaluate, enhance, and initiate studies to increase understanding of spotted seatrout biology and population dynamics in North Carolina. 6. Promote public awareness regarding the status and management of the stock.
Unit Stock Definition • Most remain in natal estuary throughout life cycle • Limited tagging in NC • Minimal evidence of mixture between NC/SC • 15% of seatrout recaptured in VA tagging study were recovered in NC • NC and VA considered a unit stock • Management unit is NC only
Status of the Stock • Age based statistical model • 2009 stock assessment indicated the spotted seatrout stock in NC/VA has been overfished and overfishing occurring throughout the entire 18-year time series (1991-2008) • Spawning Potential Ratio (SPR) is a measurement of the spawning potential of a population after the impacts of fishing mortality • SPRs are below the DMF benchmark threshold and ASMFC recommended criteria of 20%
FMP Purpose • Recommend or maintain management measures that prevent overfishing and provide the long-term sustainable harvest for the fishery • Areas to be addressed: • Habitat and water quality • Socioeconomic factors • Management strategies • Insufficient data and research needs
Interim Rules • 1991-2006 assessment showed stock is: • Overfished, overfishing occurring • While 1991-2008 assessment was in the process of being updated: • Interim management measures were implemented to ensure the viability of the stock while the FMP was being developed • 14” size limit (effective October 5, 2009) • Additional changes through the FMP process
Spotted Seatrout Distribution Range - MA to Mexico ASMFC - East coast GSMFC - Gulf coast Regional management; Florida and Gulf of Mexico based on genetic stocks (not yet available in NC) Entire life cycle estuarine www.fishbase.org
Life History • Fast growing • First year, males reach ~ 10 inches, females ~ 13 inches • Early maturity • 98% females mature at 14 inches • Very fecund • 3-20 million ova per year depending on age, length, water temp • Protracted spawning season • April through October, peak May and June, repeated spawning
Habitat and Water Quality • Use habitats throughout the estuaries and occasionally the coastal ocean • Found in most habitats identified by the NC Coastal Habitat Protection Plan (CHPP): • Water column, wetlands, soft bottom, shell bottom, and submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) • SAV is critical to all life history stages • Habitat protection is critical to sustainability of stock • FMP identifies a number of habitat research needs • Most can be implemented by DMF/MFC as CHPP related actions.
Habitat and Water QualityResearch Recommendations • Identify coastal habitats utilized by juveniles and assess relationship between changes in recruitment success and changes in habitat conditions • Expand juvenile sampling programs to include SAV bed sampling in high/low salinity areas from July through September • Evaluate the role of shell hash and shell bottom in recruitment and survival, particularly where SAV is absent
Habitat and Water QualityResearch Recommendations • Determine location and significance of spawning aggregation sites throughout the coast • Evaluate the role of SAV in the spawning success • Determine if designation of spawning areas by MFC is needed, and if specific protective measures should be developed • Define overwintering habitat requirements
Socioeconomic Factors • Recreational Fishery – Economic impact of spotted seatrout-landing recreational angling trips was $49.5 million, 2008 • Occasionally caught by holders of the Recreational Commercial Gear License (RCGL) • Economic impact of spotted seatrout-landing RCGL trips was $3 million in 2008
Socioeconomic Factors • Commercial Fishery • Small component of commercial fishery, never exceeding 3% of value of finfish landed overall in the state • Seasonally important in some years; accounted for 6% of the value of estuarine finfish landed Oct-Dec 2008 • Important to a limited number of individuals who target spotted seatrout seasonally (winter) • Price per pound has not changed appreciably over the past 35 years, and risen to over $1.50 per pound since 2003 • The economic impact of the commercial harvest to NC’s economy was $3.9 million, 2008
Recreational Fishery • Most popular target species in South Atlantic since 2005 • Most popular target species in NC since 2006 • Inshore and near-shore oceanic waters • Shore, private boat, charter/guide services • Taken with a variety methods • Live bait • Artificial lures • Trolling
North Carolina Recreational Seasonal Distribution of Harvest 54% 18% 11% 11% 3% 3%
Issues Addressed in the FMP • Achieving sustainable harvest • Enforcement of size, creel limit and gear regulations in Joint, Coastal or Inland Fishing Waters • Management measures to address user group competition • Impacts of cold stun events on the population
Sustainable Harvest Background • 2009 stock assessment indicated the stock in NC/VA has been overfished and overfishing has been occurring throughout the 18-year time series. Issue • Establish harvest reductions that achieve sustainable harvest by rebuilding the spawning stock biomass above the threshold level and end overfishing within 10 years.
Sustainable Harvest • Management Options • Modify size limits (size limits alone not likely to achieve reduction necessary/would have to be combined with other options) • Increase minimum size • Establish maximum size (slot limits) • Establish maximum size (slot limits) with a trophy fish • Establish trip/creel limits • (Trip/creel limits alone are not likely to achieve the reduction • necessary/would have to be combined with other options)
Sustainable Harvest • Other Management Options Considered • Area Closures • SeasonalClosures • Quotas • Gear Restrictions • Limited Entry
Sustainable Harvest AC Recommendation • End overfishing ½ way; 14-inch minimum size, 6 fish bag limit, and 200-lb trip limit DMF Recommendation • End overfishing ½ way; 14-inch minimum size, 6 fish bag limit, and refer to suite of options
Enforcement Background • MFC is responsible for managing, protecting, preserving and enhancing marine and estuarine resources, while WRC is responsible for regulating fishing activities in Inland Waters. Issue • Improving compliance with and agency enforcement of management measures in Joint and Coastal or Inland Fishing Waters.
Enforcement MFC Joint/Coastal WRC Inland 12-inch minimum size 10 fish creel limit hook and line only gamefish status • 12-inch minimum size (1991-2009) • 14-inch minimum size (10/2009) • 10 fish creel limit • commercial and recreational
Enforcement AC Recommendation • Marine Patrol officers be given general police authority • Develop mutual aid agreement between DMF Marine Patrol and WRC Wildlife Enforcement officers for Inland Fishing Waters. DMF Recommendation • Develop mutual aid agreement between DMF Marine Patrol and WRC Wildlife Enforcement officers for Inland Fishing Waters.
User Group Competition Background • Commercial gill net and recreational hook and line fishermen have been in competition for seatrout, and in some instances, competition has escalated to conflict. Issue • Determine management measures to reduce conflicts between recreational and gill net fisheries.