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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

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Marine Fisheries - 08 Atlantic Croaker SSR 2016

Marine Fisheries

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Atlantic croaker

Atlantic Croaker - 2016

Stock Status Concern – The 2010 benchmark assessment used data from both Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic regions to produce a single, coast wide assessment. The assessment indicates that the Atlantic croaker stock is not experiencing overfishing and is likely not overfished. Absolute estimates of spawning stock biomass and fishing mortality were not given because of uncertainty in the assessment resulting from inadequate data on the magnitude of Atlantic croaker discards in the South Atlantic shrimp trawl fishery. Trends in independent data indicate biomass has been increasing and more, older fish have been observed in the catch since the late 1980’s.  In order to evaluate the status of the stock until the stock assessment is completed or in between assessments, the Traffic Light Analysis established under Addendum II was reviewed.  Management triggers were not tripped in 2014 since both population characteristics (harvest and adult abundance) were not above the 30% threshold for 2012-2014.  However, analysis shows declining trends in fishery independent indices and commercial and recreational harvest.  The next benchmark stock assessment is scheduled for completion in late 2016.

Average Commercial Landings and Value 2006-2015 5,144,479 lbs./$2,636,853

2015 Commercial Landings and Value – 1,819,066 lbs./$1,647,905

Average Recreational Landings 2006-2015 – 162,540 lbs., 2015 – 190,808 lbs.

Average Number of Award Citations (3 lbs.) 2006-2015 – 1, 2015 – 0

Status of Fishery Management Plan (FMP) – In North Carolina, Atlantic croaker are included in the Interjurisdictional FMP, which defers to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Atlantic Croaker Interstate FMP for compliance requirements. The initial ASMFC FMP was approved in 1987, with Amendment 1 approved in November 2005. The ASMFC approved Addendum I to Amendment 1 to the Interstate FMP for Atlantic croaker in 2011. The Addendum changed the management unit to one region (New Jersey through the east coast of Florida) and modified the biological reference points used to assess stock condition. In May 2014, the South Atlantic State/Federal Fisheries Management Board approved Addendum II to Amendment I. Final approval of Addendum II was received in August 2014. Addendum II replaced the management triggers and established the Traffic Light approach to serve as the new trigger.  The next benchmark stock assessment is scheduled for completion in late 2016.

Research and Data Needs – Develop fishery-dependent and independent size, age, and sex specific relative abundance estimates to monitor long term changes in Atlantic croaker abundance. Improve catch and effort statistics from the commercial and recreational fisheries, along with size and age structure of the catch. Conduct stock identification research on Atlantic croaker via otolith microchemistry, tagging, or genetics.

2015 Regulations – None

Harvest Season Year round

Size and Age at Maturity – 7-9 inches TL/2–3 years

Maximum Age – 17 years

Juvenile Abundance Index (number of fish per tow) 2006-2015 – Pamlico Sound Survey (June) – 422, 2015 – 271

Habits and Habitats – Atlantic croaker inhabit mud and sand-bottom areas and feed chiefly on crustaceans, worms, mollusks, detritus, and small fishes. Atlantic croaker has a protracted spawning season with a peak during October in North Carolina. The pelagic eggs and recently hatched larvae drift toward land. Later, the advanced larval stages and juveniles continue their migration inshore by actively swimming into estuarine nursery areas. Maximum recruitment of juvenile fish is usually in the spring, with movement to offshore waters in the fall.

For more information, contact Daniel Zapf at Daniel.Zapf@ncdenr.gov or 800-338-7804 or 252-948-3875.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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