Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Gray Triggerfish

Gray Triggerfish
How to measure the 14" fork length minimum size limit

The latest gray triggerfish stock assessment concluded that the stock is both overfished and experiencing overfishing.

The Gulf Council has just asked that an interim rule be put into place to temporarily reduce overfishing until long-term management measures can be developed. The interim rule reduces the triggerfish Annual Catch Limit and Annual Catch Target, and if the Annual Catch Target is met the fishery can be closed for the rest of the year.

The Council is also developing an amendment to the Reef Fish Management Plan (Amendment 37) that will permanently adjust the gray triggerfish Annual Catch Limit and Annual Catch Target once the interim rule expires.  Amendment 37 also considers making changes to commercial size limits and trip limits, and recreational size limits, seasons, and bag limits to keep triggerfish harvest inline with stock rebuilding goals. The document can be found here

If you’re on the edge of your seat and want to know more….
Photo: Ocean Triggerfish - NOAA Library
In 2006 a stock assessment indicated that gray triggerfish was experiencing overfishing. The Council developed a rebuilding plan for gray triggerfish in reef fish Amendment 30A that aimed to rebuild the stock in 10 years (by 2017). Unfortunately, the latest gray triggerfish stock assessment concluded that the stock was still experiencing overfishing and the stock is overfished.

The Gulf Council’s scientific advisors recommended that the gray triggerfish Acceptable Biological Catch be set at 305,300 pounds. The current stock Annual Catch Limit (the amount of fish that can be harvested each year) is more than twice as high (659,000 pounds) as the Acceptable Biological Catch, and must be reduced.  

The proposed interim rule will set 2012 Annual Catch Limits and Annual Catch Targets for each sector. The Acceptable Biological Catch will be allocated 79% recreational and 21% commercial, resulting in the following for 2012:

Annual Catch Limit
Annual Catch Target
64,100 pounds
60,900 pounds
241,200 pounds
217,000 pounds

And, just to add a bit of perspective, this is a graph of the commercial and recreational landings of gray triggerfish from 1981 through 2010:

Commercial and recreational landings of gray triggerfish from 1981 to 2010

As you might notice, in recent years landings of gray triggerfish have declined. In 2009 a total of 482,000 pounds were harvested and in 2010 a total of 352,000 pounds were harvested.

The amendment that is expected to follow the interim rule considers making a number of changes to triggerfish management including:
Photo: Troy Frady

·      Shortening the current rebuilding plan
·      Increasing the commercial minimum size limit
·      Establishing a commercial closed season
·      Establishing a commercial trip limit
·      Increasing the recreational minimum size limit
·      Establishing a recreational closed season
·      Establishing a triggerfish-specific recreational bag limit
·      Enabling NOAA Fisheries to close the fishery if the Annual Catch Target is reached

The Council plans to review a draft of this document in August, and public hearings are expected to take place in September.

As always, don’t hesitate to email me if you have any questions.