Estimate of Illegal Fishing Mortality for Red Drum in Texas

Thursday, September 12, 2013: 8:00 AM
Conway (The Marriott Little Rock)
Gary C. Matlock , Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Silver Spring, MD
Illegal fishing undermines management success.  Recent estimates of worldwide  illegal and unreported fishing range from about 13 to 31%, with the mid-1990s being the worst period.  Fish stock assessments and ecosystem-based analyses can be severely biased without inclusion of illegal fishing mortality estimates.   Social and economic costs are also inflicted.  Impacts of illegal fishing in the coastal United States are no more apparent than in the case of the Texas red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) fishery in the 1970s.  The overfished condition of sub-adult populations in Texas bays, caused in part because of reportedly rampant illegal fishing during the 1970s and 1980s, led the Texas legislature to prohibit the sale of red drum, even without direct estimates of illegal fishing mortality at the time.  This study used tagging data, combined with commercial landings data, fishery independent monitoring, simulated fishing operations, and published literature, to estimate the proportion of red drum  >457 mm TL dying in Texas bays from a variety of causes.  Most (~ 98% of these fish died before escaping the estuarine fishery, and about 44% of each cohort was illegally harvested.  Additional research is needed to examine the success of fishery management in reducing the illegal fishing and achieving fishery goals.