Monkfish - 2013
Stock Status – Recovering – The Monkfish Review Panel reviewed the 2013 monkfish operational stock assessment. Model results from the operational stock assessment indicate that the North and South monkfish stocks are not over-fished and overfishing is not occurring. The review panel recommended a new benchmark assessment not proceed until new information on age, growth, longevity and natural mortality is obtained. The review panel noted that a number of key uncertainties in landings, discards, commercial length frequencies, aging methods, life history, growth and natural mortality remain unresolved since the 2010 stock assessment. Despite these uncertainties, the work of the 2013 operational stock assessment is accepted as the best available scientific information for assessing the status of monkfish. Projections for initial conditions of population sizes illustrated a negligible probability of the stocks becoming overfished in the short term.
Average Commercial Landings and Value 2003– 2012 – 144,705 lbs/$151,201
2012 Commercial Landings and Value – 21,649 lbs/$25,286 (quota managed)
Average Recreational Landings – Not available
Status of Fishery Management Plan (FMP) – In North Carolina, monkfish are currently included in the Interjurisdictional FMP, which defers to the New England Fishery Management Council/Mid–Atlantic Fishery Management Council FMP compliance requirements in federal waters (3–200 miles). The monkfish FMP adopted in 1999 outlined a 10–year rebuilding plan for the stock. In 2003, the original FMP was modified and amended to include an annual measure of the status of the stocks and adjustment to management measures as needed to maintain a 10– year rebuilding schedule. Amendment 2, effective in 2005, established northern (NFMA) and southern (SFMA) fishery management areas with annual quotas for each area, limits entry along with different permit categories for the directed fishery, allocates days at sea, sets daily trip limits, and still allows the traditional incidental catch to occur. By 2006, biomass indices for both stocks had returned to levels below the minimum biomass thresholds and annual biomass targets. In response to continued concern over the status of the monkfish stock, NMFS implemented interim management measures in April of 2007 prohibiting the use of carryover days-at-sea (DAS), limiting DAS, and reducing the allowable incidental catch and target total allowable catch (TTAC). NMFS deferred implementing the management measures until a 2007 stock assessment was completed. The assessment revised the biological reference points and both monkfish stocks were considered rebuilt and overfishing was not occurring. NMFS approved the interim management measures as a result of the assessment effective October 2007. In 2008, NMFS adopted the new biological reference definitions, reduced the number of carryover DAS and removed a backstop provision that could potentially close the fishery if landings exceeded the TTAC. Effective May 25, 2011, NMFS approved measures to bring the monkfish FMP into compliance with the annual catch limit and accountability measure requirements of the Magnuson– Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
Research and Data Needs – Continued research into age, growth, and natural mortality issues; determination of movement patterns in relation to stock areas; development of a one stock model given evidence of movement between the two areas and existing genetic information; development of two-sex model depending on the results of aging work.
2012 Regulations – 17 inches total length (TL) and 11 inches tail length in the NFMA and SFMA.
Harvest Season – In North Carolina, large mesh gill net restrictions implemented by NMFS to protect sea turtles and harbor porpoises significantly limit the directed gill net fishery for monkfish. A directed commercial fishery occurs from March 16th through April 14th. During this time, fishermen harvesting monkfish in the Atlantic Ocean using gill nets greater than seven inches stretched mesh, must hold a valid N.C. Monkfish Large Mesh Gill Net Permit and limit fishing activity to a one mile wide area extending from two miles seaward of the coastline to three miles seaward of the coastline from the North Carolina/Virginia state line southward to Wimble Shoals (Latitude 35°30’N).
Size and Age at Maturity – Males: 14 inches/3 years; Females: 17 inches/4 years
Historical and Current Maximum Age – Males: 9 years; Females: 14 years
Juvenile Abundance Index – Not available
Habits and Habitats – Monkfish, also called goosefish or anglerfish, are a benthic species occurring in the Northwest Atlantic from the Grand Banks and northern Gulf of St. Lawrence south to Cape Hatteras. Monkfish may be found from inshore areas to depths of 900 meters. Seasonal onshore– offshore migrations of monkfish occur and are assumed to be related to spawning and food availability. Spawning occurs offshore in spring from Cape Hatteras to Southern New England and is suggested to progress north until early autumn. Females expel large buoyant gelatinous egg veils that drift until hatching. Monkfish rest partially buried on the soft bottom and attract prey using a modified first dorsal fin ray that resembles a fishing pole and lure. Monkfish commonly eat prey as large as themselves including spiny dogfish, conger eel, flounder, Atlantic herring, northern sea robin, Atlantic mackerel, skate, northern stargazer, and other monkfish.
For more information, contact Holly White at Holly.White@ncdenr.gov or 252-473– 5734.