A New Look at a Prized and Controversial Coastal Species

Photo credit: Joseph H. Tarnecki and William F. Patterson

Red Snapper Lutjanus campechanus are a highly prized and contested species because of their popularity with both sport and commercial fishers, and stock assessments are critical. Mandy Karnauskas and her colleagues implemented intensive fishery independent surveys that added valuable information on the spatial distributions of different age classes to answer questions
their broad- scale demographics and especially how they are distributed among both natural and artificial habitats. They found that, for younger age classes, catch rates were 20 times higher on artificial structures than natural reefs. Those high catch rates had been of great concern, because prior research suggested that the majority (70%) of age-2 Red Snapper were concentrated
at oil platforms; their research indicated that only about 3%–7% of fish occurred there. Thus, population fish vulnerability at artificial structures was far lower than thought previously, but managers can also consider fishery effects that concentrate on specific age classes in specific places. That concern occurred because although stock structure was known, no one knew where
different age classes occurred, or in what habitats. Their work revealed an unknown dimension to the black box, and will lead to more informed management decisions. Whew! Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science is a relatively new journal, but it also has the newest research that makes a difference.

Reference: Karnauskas, M., J. Walter, III, M. Campbell, A. Pollack, J. M. Drymon, and S. Powers. 2017. Red Snapper distribution on natural habitats and artificial structures in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science [online serial] 9: 50–67