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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 2007 and 2016, with the lowest landings occurring in 2016 (Figure 1). Landings have averaged 676,794 pounds during this timeframe. In general, commercial harvest has decreased since 2007.

Figure 1

Spot are targeted by shore based anglers and those fishing from private vessels during the fall. Recreational harvest of spot in North Carolina ranged from 513,320 to 3 million fish (151,352 to 982,463 pounds) between 2007 and 2016 with the lowest harvest occurring in 2016 (Figure 2). Recreational harvest of spot in numbers has fluctuated since 2007 with peaks in 2007 and 2014. 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 fishery management plan compliance requirements. An Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Spot Fishery Management 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-specific 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 be addressed by the South Atlantic Board in August 2017.

Stock Status Overview

The first coastwide benchmark stock assessment for spot was completed in 2017 but did not pass peer review. To evaluate the status of the stock until the benchmark stock assessment is completed, or in between future stock assessments, the Traffic Light Analysis established under Addendum I was reviewed. The composite harvest index (recreational and commercial harvest) did not trip in 2013-2014. The index did trip in 2012-2013. The decline in the harvest index was driven primarily by declining commercial landings rather than declining recreational harvest. The composite abundance index for adult spot (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program surveys) did trigger in 2014. Since both population characteristics (harvest and abundance) did not exceed thresholds for 2013-2014, management triggers were not tripped. The Traffic Light Analysis has not been updated in recent years due to work on the stock assessment completed in 2017.

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-0) fish. The juvenile abundance index from 2007 through 2016 has been variable ranging from 193 individuals per tow to 1,347 individuals per tow (Figure 3). There has been a decreasing trend since 2013. The 2016 index of 291 individuals per tow was below the 10 year average of 620 individuals per tow.

Figure 3

Research Needs

Research needs include state monitoring and reporting on the extent of bycatch; development of fishery dependent (data collected from commercial and recreational fisheries) and fishery independent (data collected by scientists) size and sex specific relative abundance estimates; studies on migration, maturity, fecundity and age and growth; determination of the effect anthropogenic (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 currently 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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