MOREHEAD CITY - The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries declared black sea bass, both north and south of Cape Hatteras, “Recovering” in its 2012 Stock Status Report released today.
The report upgrades the black sea bass stock south of Cape Hatteras from “Depleted” in 2011 and the stock north of Cape Hatteras from “Concern” in 2011.
“This is good news, and it reflects what we’re seeing in the catches,” said Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.
The black sea bass stock south of Cape Hatteras has been under a federally managed rebuilding plan since 2006. A 2011 federal stock assessment found the stock is not overfished but has not yet met the rebuilding target.
The black sea bass stock north of Cape Hatteras, continues to show signs that the stock is improving. A 2010 National Marine Fisheries Service’s updated stock assessment found that the stock is considered rebuilt. However, uncertainty in the stock status has resulted in conservative management of this stock.
In other stock status changes this year, American eel was listed as “Depleted.” It was listed as “Unknown” in 2011. The stock was declared depleted by a 2012 Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission benchmark stock assessment. While a determination of overfishing could not be made, the assessment indicated the stock is at or near historical lows. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is considering new management measures in 2012.
“While American eel is ‘Depleted,’ anytime we can move a stock out of the unknown category it’s a positive step,” Daniel said.
New to the Stock Status Report this year is black drum, listed as “Unknown.” Concern for the stock has been expressed coast-wide because of a declining trend in landings and because the majority of black drum harvested are young, potentially juvenile fish.
“The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is developing a black drum fishery management plan, and we hope a known status can be assessed in the future,” Daniel said.
The division annually grades the status of marine finfish, shellfish, shrimp and crabs as either “Viable,” “Recovering,” “Concern,” “Depleted” or “Unknown.” The grades serve as a barometer of the overall health of the state’s fishery resources, and they are used to prioritize development of fishery management plans.
A stock is considered “Viable” when it exhibits stable or increasing trends in a number of biological factors associated with healthy populations, such as a normal distribution of sizes, ages and spawning-age females or when it has met biological targets for sustainable harvest.
A “Recovering” stock shows marked and consistent improvement in the criteria listed for a “Viable” stock, but has not yet reached its target.
Stocks designated as “Concern” are those that do not have an approved stock assessment or fishery management plan, but have seen increased fishing pressure, a decline in landings, lack a normal age distribution, or are negatively impacted by environmental factors that cannot be controlled.
A “Depleted” stock is a population in which there are too few spawning females to support an active fishery. Factors that can contribute to this status include overfishing, poor water quality, habitat loss, larvae survival and disease. This status determination is based on an approved stock assessment or fishery management plan.
A stock is classified as “Unknown” when there is not sufficient data to determine trends in fishing pressure, landings or biological factors. Stocks designated as “Unknown” are often prioritized for research programs.
A complete list of the 2012 Stock Status Report can be found on the division’s website at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/2012-stock-status-report.
For more information, contact Alan Bianchi in the division’s Morehead City headquarters office, at 252-808-8092 or Alan.Bianchi@ncdenr.gov.