Stock Status - Depleted – The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Weakfish Management Board has accepted five conclusions from the most recent stock assessment report for management purposes:
Average Commercial Landings and Value 1997-2006 – 1,750,903 lbs./$982,652
2006 Commercial Landings and Value – 362,855 lbs./$310,488
Average Recreational Landings 1997-2006 – 157,688 lbs., 2006 - 135,922 lbs.
Average Number of Citations (6 lbs.) 1997-2006 – 17, 2006 - 1
Average Recreational Commercial Gear Landings 2002-2006 – 763 lbs., 2006 - 447 lbs.
Status of Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) - In North Carolina, weakfish are included in the interjurisdictional FMP, which defers to ASMFC FMP compliance requirements. Weakfish are currently managed under Amendment 4 to the ASMFC FMP, adopted November 2002. Due to weakfish’s depleted stock size, Addendum II to Amendment 4 was recently passed with measures to aid in rebuilding the stock. Addendum II takes into account the fact natural mortality, rather than fishing mortality, appears to be the primary cause of the current stock decline. As a result, the Board has implemented modest measures including a more conservative recreational creel limit (6 fish), a reduction in the commercial daily bycatch limit (300 to 150 lbs.), and a coastwide commercial landings limit of approximately 3.7 million pounds (based on 2000 to 2004 average). These management measures will be re-evaluated should coastwide commercial landings exceed 80% of the landings limit or if any single state’s landings exceed its five-year mean by more than 25% in any single year. Measures of Addendum II must be fully implemented by October 29, 2007.
Research and Data Needs - Stock identification studies to determine coastal movements and the extent of stock mixing. Studies to define spawning locations and habitat preferences.
Current Regulations (2007) –
Harvest Season – Year round
Size and Age at Maturity – 7-8 inches/1 year
Historical and Current Maximum Age – 17 years/12 years
Juvenile Abundance Index (1997-2006) – 43.9, 2006 - 39.1 - Unvalidated
Habits and Habitats - Weakfish are estuarine-dependent members of the drum family that include Atlantic croaker, spot, red drum, black drum and spotted seatrout. Weakfish migrate south and offshore during winter months and inshore and north during spring and summer. Weakfish spawn throughout the spring and summer and the larvae and juveniles are dependent on estuarine habitat as critical nursery areas. During winter, young-of-the-year move offshore into nearshore ocean waters to overwinter. Following their first winter, the one-year-old fish move into the inlets and sounds to spawn for the first time.
For more information, contact Lee Paramore at email@example.com (252-473-5734).
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