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Endangered Species Research

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ESR SPECIAL PrePrint (2008) - Abstract

Monitoring changes in the catch rates and abundance of juvenile goliath grouper using the ENP creel survey, 1973–2006

Shannon L. Cass-Calay1,*, Thomas W. Schmidt2

1National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Sustainable Fisheries Division,
75 Virginia Beach Drive, Miami, Florida 33149-1099, USA
2National Park Service, South Florida Ecosystem Office, 950 North Krome Avenue, 3rd Floor, Homestead, Florida 33030, USA

ABSTRACT: In early 2006, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service removed goliath grouper from its list of species of concern. It cited a recent status report that showed a significant increase in the abundance of the USA population and suggested that goliath grouper are re-establishing themselves throughout their historic range. However, under the Magnuson-Stevens Conservation Act, the goliath grouper remains ‘overfished,’ and harvest is still illegal. The historical center of abundance of goliath grouper is the Ten Thousand Islands area of southwest Florida. Detailed catch and effort data are available from this region for 1973 to 2006. The data were collected by Everglades National Park (ENP) officials during voluntary dockside interviews of sport fishermen. Using this data, a standardized index of abundance was created for juvenile goliath grouper. The index shows a substantial decline in abundance during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Since that time, the abundance of juveniles within ENP has increased considerably, suggesting that strong year classes have recently occurred in ENP. This information is useful for managers and stock assessment biologists tasked to evaluate the stock status of goliath grouper, and to determine acceptable harvest levels for scientific research and/or fishing.

KEY WORDS: Goliath grouper · Jewfish · Epinephelus itajara · Delta-lognormal abundance index

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