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gulf of mexico menhaden fish map

Gulf of Mexico Menhaden (Brevoortia patronus)

Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commissions

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Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission

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Gulf menhaden are found in estuarine and coastal waters from the Yucatan Peninsula to Tampa Bay, Florida. As with their Atlantic cousin, Gulf menhaden serve as prey for many fish, sea birds and marine mammals.

Gulf of Mexico menhaden is a different species than its Atlantic Ocean cousin, with a shorter average lifespan. Typically, 90 percent or more of the Gulf reduction fishery catch consists of age-1 and age-2 fish and few fish beyond age 3 show up in the fishery. The short-lived nature of this species means that the stock could collapse rapidly in the absence of strong recruitment, with little warning. Lack of spatial management has allowed the fishery to become intensely concentrated in Louisiana waters, a worrisome sign.

The Gulf of Mexico fishery is managed by interstate agreement though the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (GSMFC), which was established in 1949 as a compact of the five Gulf coastal states. According to the most recent stock status evaluation, fishing mortality (F) has been slightly above the FTARGET, but well below the FLIMIT threshold � therefore the stock would not appear to be subject to overfishing on a coastwide basis in the recent past.1 However, the geographic contraction of the reduction fishery into core areas of the menhaden's range is extremely troubling. The vast majority of the Gulf reduction fishery catch (92%) comes from the Louisiana region, but the extent to which this reflects serial depletion of other menhaden populations around the Gulf coast is unclear. Loss of spatially dispersed substocks along the coast could undermine the productivity of the stock as a whole over time, and make the remaining aggregation off Louisiana vulnerable to overfishing or even extirpation.

As an initial matter, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission should adopt annual catch limits and develop a Multispecies Virtual Population Assessment model (MSVPA) along the lines of the model under development by Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in order to provide management advice on the predator-prey interactions affecting menhaden when managers set annual fishery quotas.

1 D.S. Vaughan, K.W. Shertzer, J.W. Smith. Gulf menhaden (Brevoortia patronus) in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Fishery characteristics and biological reference points for management. Fisheries Research 83 (2007): 263-275.

Copyright � Marine Fish Conservation Network. All Rights Reserved 2007

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