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Uncertainties in Reef Fish Extension Reef Fish Catch Limits

Louisiana Sea Grant (LSG) will assist Mississippi State University and Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant (MSALSG) on a project to help reduce the uncertainties in setting reef fish catch limits. Marcus Drymon with MSALSG is the principal investigator on the $118,000 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funded project.

“Reef fish are important to Louisiana, both recreationally and commercially,” said Julie Lively, LSG executive director. “This project will allow Louisiana Sea Grant to produce more outreach materials and host education events focused on this resource.”

Stock assessments rely on data from fisheries landings to set sustainable catch limits for reef fish. However, cryptic mortality through depredation – where captured fish are killed and partly consumed by predators before the fish can be retrieved by a fishing vessel – causes fisheries managers to underestimate the actual number of fish harvested, resulting in incorrect catch limits.

The project team plans to determine the extent of the depredation to improve reef fish stock assessments and share their findings with NOAA for better fisheries management. The team will determine temporal and spatial trends in depredation using existing data, survey fishers and hold workshops with stakeholders to share and gather information. Stakeholder input will also be used to identify depredation deterrents.

LSG’s role in the project involves annual workshops through 2025 to share regional and statewide information about reef fish, produce several videos and fact sheets, as well as participate in communication and outreach activities at the Gulf of Mexico regional level.