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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Spot

Marine Fisheries

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SPOT, Leiostomus xanthurus

8-point rule

Spot

Life History

Spot (Leiostomus xanthurus) are short lived, estuarine dependent members of the drum family, ranging from the Gulf of Maine to Florida but are most abundant from the Chesapeake Bay to South Carolina. Spot spawn in the ocean from late fall to early spring. Wind and currents carry the young into the upper reaches of the estuaries where they remain throughout the spring. Adult spot migrate seasonally between estuarine and nearshore ocean waters but are rarely found in the upper reaches of the estuary. Spot are bottom feeders, eating mostly worms, small crustaceans, and mollusks. Spot are most susceptible to commercial and recreational fishing activity during the fall when schools migrate from estuarine to oceanic waters.

Fisheries

Two gear types (gill nets and haul seines) are used in directed commercial trips and harvest of spot. Other gear types, including pound nets, contribute minimally to spot commercial landings. Commercial harvest of spot in North Carolina ranged from 235,670 pounds to 1 million pounds between 2008 and 2017, with the lowest landings occurring in 2016 (Figure 1). Landings have averaged 630,379 pounds during this timeframe. In general, commercial harvest has been declining.

Figure 1

Spot are targeted recreationally by shore based anglers and those fishing from private vessels during the fall. Recreational harvest of spot in North Carolina ranged from 469,462 to 2.1 million fish (151,352 to 704,445 pounds) between 2008 and 2017 with the lowest harvest by numbers occurring in 2017 (Figure 2). Recreational harvest of spot in numbers has fluctuated but has generally been declining. The number of spot releases has fluctuated little since 2007 but has generally declined since 2013.

Figure 2

Management

In North Carolina, spot is included in the North Carolina Fishery Management Plan for Interjurisdictional Fisheries which defers to Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Spot. Spot are managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in state territorial (0 to 3 miles from shore) and coastal waters along the Atlantic Coast from Delaware to Florida. The initial Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission plan was approved in 1987. In 2012, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved the Omnibus Amendment for spot, spotted seatrout, and Spanish mackerel. The Omnibus Amendment updated all three plans with requirements under the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act (1993) and the Interstate Fishery Management Program Charter (1995). The updates to the plans included commercial and recreational management measures and recommendations, adaptive management options, de minimis (minimum fishery participation that requires Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission compliance) thresholds and exemptions, and monitoring recommendations. The Omnibus Amendment included a management trigger for spot using relative abundance indices to monitor the status of the stock until a full coastwide stock assessment can be completed. Coupled with adaptive management measures, the Omnibus Amendment provided options to efficiently implement management measures should the management board determine such measures are needed in the future.

In August 2014, Addendum I was approved for spot to employ the Traffic Light Approach (statistical method for evaluating trends in the fishery incorporating multiple data sources into a single metric) to better manage this species. The Traffic Light Approach is reviewed annually to evaluate fisheries trends and, if necessary, develop state-specified management actions, such as bag limits, size restrictions, time and area closures, and gear restrictions, when harvest and abundance thresholds are exceeded for two consecutive years. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission management area extends from Delaware to the east coast of Florida. A benchmark stock assessment was completed in 2017 but did not pass peer review and will not be used for management.

Stock Overview

Assessment: No
Terminal Year of Last Assessment: N/A
oOverfishing: N/A
Overfished: N/A

A benchmark stock assessment for spot was completed in 2017 but was not accepted for management use by a peer review panel. However, the review panel did not identify any major problems in the spot fishery that would require immediate management action. Because there is not an approved stock assessment, the stock status for spot with relation to overfished or overfishing is unknown. To evaluate the status of the stock until the next benchmark stock assessment is completed, or in between future stock assessments, the Traffic Light Analysis established under Addendum I was reviewed. The Traffic Light Analysis was updated with data through 2016 following the completion of the stock assessment. The updated analysis indicated the composite harvest index would have tripped in 2015 and 2016 while the composite abundance index (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program surveys) would not have tripped in either year. However, because both metrics did not trip, management action is not required. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s South Atlantic State/Federal Fisheries Management Board is scheduled to receive the updated Traffic Light Analysis and consider recommended revisions to the Traffic Light framework in August 2018.

In North Carolina, a juvenile abundance index for spot is obtained based on catch per unit effort, or number of fish per tow, from the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries’ Pamlico Sound Trawl Survey. The index only includes the June survey data and fish less than 4.7 inches to look at the young of year (age zero) fish. The juvenile abundance index from 2008 through 2017 has been variable ranging from 193 individuals per tow to 1,347 individuals per tow (Figure 3). The 2017 index of 721 individuals per tow was above the 10 year average of 675 individuals per tow.

Figure 3

Research Needs

Research needs include state monitoring and reporting on the extent of bycatch; development of fishery dependent (commercial and recreational fisheries) and fishery independent (sampling that does not rely on commercial or recreational fisheries) size and sex specific relative abundance estimates; studies on migration, maturity, fecundity and age and growth; determination of the effect manmade disturbances have on growth, survival and recruitment (the number of fish entering the population).

Links

Management Agencies

North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

Fishery Management Plans Amendments, Revisions and Supplements

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

Stock Assessment Reports

There is no coastwide stock assessment for spot.

Contacts

For more information, contact Daniel Zapf at Daniel.Zapf@ncdenr.gov
or 252-948-3875
Spot
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N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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