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Stock Status – Concern - Also called black grouper or gray grouper. According to the latest stock assessment (2006) from South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC), the gag stock is experiencing overfishing, but it is not overfished. Estimates of recruitment in 2002-2004 are below average and fishing mortality rates in 2002-2004 are above the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) level. Stock projections suggest that the stock will remain above the proposed Minimum Stock Size Threshold (MSST) in the medium-term. In 1995, only 5.5% of the fish captured were male, versus 19.6% from 1976-1982.
Average Commercial Landings and Value - 2000-2009 – 207,223 lbs./$548,467
2009 Commercial Landings and Value – 220,925 lbs./$733,054
Average Recreational Landings - 2000-2009 – 127,095 lbs., 2009 – 87,994 lbs.
Status of Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) - In North Carolina, gag is currently included in the Interjurisdictional FMP, which defers to SAFMC Snapper Grouper FMP compliance requirements, which was initially approved in 1983. Amendment 4, effective in 1992, established a 20-inch total length (TL) minimum size; Amendment 9, effective 1999, increased the minimum size to 24 inches TL, created a 2-fish recreational bag and a March-April closure (bag limit only, no sale). Amendment 16 closed the spawning from January-April for both recreational and commercial fishermen, reduce the bag limit to one gag in the grouper recreational bag limit aggregate, establish a commercial quota of 352,940 lbs gutted weight, and exclude captains and crew on for-hire vessels from the recreational bag limit for groupers.
Research and Data 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 TL. Commercial quota (federal)-352,940 lbs. gutted weight. 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.
Size and Age at Maturity – Gag first mature as females at 5 years, possibly 4 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 - Large juveniles and adults occur on hard or “live” bottom on the outer continental shelf. Larval gag are estuarine dependent. Spawning occurs offshore and pelagic larvae are carried into estuaries where they reside in sea grass beds or oyster rocks. The juveniles emigrate in the fall to nearshore reefs.
For information, contact Chip Collier by email at email@example.com (800-248-4536 or 910-796-7215).
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