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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Scup

Marine Fisheries

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SCUP, Stenotomus chrysops

North of Cape Hatteras

8-point rule

Scup

Life History

Scup (Stenotomus chrysops) are a migratory, schooling species found primarily along the Atlantic coast from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. However, a smaller southern stock is believed to occur in North Carolina south of Cape Hatteras. Scup, north of Cape Hatteras, typically reach sexual maturity at age 2 to 3 or when they reach 7 inches fork length. Spawning for the northern stock typically occurs in estuaries and coastal waters during the months of May to August. They move offshore during the fall and winter. Extensive seasonal migration related to spawning is common for scup (north of Cape Hatteras). Scup have a maximum age of 14 years. Scup are bottom (benthic) feeders and prey on small crustaceans, mollusks, squid, sand dollars and fish.

Fisheries

Scup support popular commercial and recreational fisheries in the mid-Atlantic region, with most encounters occurring in waters north of North Carolina. Commercial fisheries landed 188,852 pounds of scup in North Carolina (north of Cape Hatteras) which valued 107,354 dollars in 2017. Commercial landings for scup were variable from 2008 to 2017 with the lowest landings from 2012 to 2013. Low landings during 2012 to 2013 were due to excessive shoaling of Oregon Inlet which limited the number of trawl boats able to land in North Carolina. Annual scup commercial landings in North Carolina (north of Cape Hatteras) averaged 158,446 pounds from 2008 to 2017 (Figure 1). The winter trawl fishery (primarily flounder trawls and flynets) has been the main commercial fishery for scup in North Carolina during that time span and occurs from winter (December) through early spring (April) (Figure 2).

Figure 1

Figure 2

Recreational fisheries did not encounter harvest of scup (north of Cape Hatteras) in 2017 but did encounter harvest in 2011 (27 fish), 2012 (148 fish) and 2015 (596 fish) with no reports of releases (Figure 3).

Figure 3

Management

In North Carolina, scup (north of Cape Hatteras) are included in the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Management Plan. This plan defers to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan for compliance requirements. Management measures include a coastwide quota that regulates commercial harvest in winter periods, while state by state quotas regulate the summer period, with North Carolina allocated less than 1 percent of the summer quota. Other commercial measures include minimum mesh sizes for trawls and a moratorium on new entrants. Minimum fish size limits exist for both recreational and commercial sectors, and bag limits are used for the recreational fishery. Scup (south of Cape Hatteras) are managed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

Stock Overview

  • Assessment: Yes
  • Terminal Year of Last Assessment: 2014
    • Overfishing: No
    • Overfished/Depleted: No

The 2015 scup benchmark stock assessment used a statistical catch at age model using the age structured assessment program. In 2014, the fishing mortality rate was below the threshold reference point and the spawning stock biomass (the amount of spawning females in the stock) was above the target reference point so the stock was not overfished (the number of mature females in the population was not too small) and overfishing was not occurring (the rate of removal from the population was not too high). A stock assessment update is scheduled for mid-2019. No juvenile abundance index value is available for scup in North Carolina.

Research Needs

Research needs include continued monitoring of catches in strata that have substantial landings of scup, development of survey abundance indices for age 3 and older fish and collection of scup discard mortality data by different commercial gear types.

Links

Management Agencies

North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council

Fishery Management Plans Amendments, Revisions and Supplements

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council

Stock Assessment Reports

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

Contacts

For more information, contact
Todd Daniel VanMiddlesworth
at Todd.VanMiddlesworth@
ncdenr.gov
or 252-473-5734
Scup
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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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