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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Gag Grouper - stock status report

Marine Fisheries

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Gag Grouper

Gag Grouper

Stock Status – Concern – Also called black grouper or gray grouper. According to the latest stock assessment (2006) from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC), the gag stock is experiencing overfishing, but it is not overfished. Estimates of recruitment from 2002 to 2004 are below average and fishing mortality rates from 2002 to 2004 are above the Maximum Sustainable Yield level. Stock projections suggest that the stock will remain above the proposed Minimum Stock Size Threshold in the medium–term.

Average Commercial Landings and Value 2001– 2010 – 215,543 lbs./$633,876

2010 Commercial Landings and Value – 222,749 lbs./$766,677

Average Recreational Landings 2001– 2010 – 131,504 lbs. 2010 – 68,213 lbs.

Status of Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) – Gag is currently included in the NC Interjurisdictional FMP, which defers to SAFMC Snapper Grouper FMP compliance requirements. Amendment 4, effective in 1992, established a 20–inch total length (TL) minimum size limit; Amendment 9, effective 1999, increased the minimum size to 24 inches TL, created a 2–fish recreational bag limit and a March– April closure (bag limit only, no sale). Gag grouper and other shallow water grouper now have a spawning season closure from January– April for both recreational and commercial fishermen. The bag limit is one gag or black grouper for the recreational fishermen. Captains and crew on for–hire vessels cannot retain a recreational bag limit. The commercial quota for the South Atlantic is 352,940 lbs. gutted weight with a trip limit in North Carolina of 500 lbs. (gag and black grouper combined).

Data and Research Needs – Develop juvenile index, assess release mortality values, conduct population assessment, expand age and growth studies, and determine migration patterns.

Current Regulations – State and federal: 24 inches total length (TL) minimum size limit. Commercial quota (federal)– 352,940 lbs gutted weight and 500 lbs trip limit in North Carolina. Recreational bag limit– no more than 1 fish may be a gag or black grouper.

Harvest season – Commercial and recreational closed season January through April or when the quota of shallow water grouper or gag grouper is reached.

Size and Age at Maturity – Gag first mature as females at 5 years, when fish are greater than 26 inches TL. Transformation to the male generally occurs around 10 years and greater than 39 inches TL.

Historical and Current Maximum Age – 22 years/30 years

Juvenile Abundance Index – None available but studies are being conducted in North Carolina and other states.

Habits and Habitats – Spawning occurs offshore and pelagic larvae are carried into estuaries where they reside in sea grass beds or on oyster rocks. Gag larvae and early juveniles are considered to be estuarine dependent. As the waters cool in the fall, juveniles emigrate from the estuary to near shore reefs. Large juveniles and adults occur on hard or “live” bottom on the outer continental shelf.

For information, contact Chip Collier at Chip.Collier@ncdenr.gov or 1-800-248-4536 or (910) 796– 7215.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • (252) 726-7021 or 1-800-682-2632

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