Propagated Fish in Resource Management

Increasing Red Drum Abundance in South Carolina: Monitor, Regulate, and Stock Hatchery Fish

Theodore I. J. Smith, Wallace E. Jenkins, Michael R. Denson, and Mark R. Collins


Abstract.—The red drum Sciaenops ocellatus is a popular sport fish from the mid-Atlantic through the Gulf of Mexico. Historical data show that this species supported substantial commercial as well as recreational fisheries. On the Atlantic Coast, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has designated this fish as “over-harvested” requiring all coastal states to implement fishery restrictions. Regulations from North Carolina to Florida range from one fish to five fish per day within a narrow slot length limit. Unlike many states, South Carolina (SC) has implemented a multifaceted management approach involving regular monitoring of subadults and adults, strict regulations, and evaluation of stocking red drum. To provide a fishery independent assessment of the population, an inshore monitoring program for subadults was begun in 1991, and in 1994, an offshore monitoring component focused on the adult segment of the population was added. This latter population segment is the focus of the ASMFC’s Fishery Management Plan. The first regulations in SC were established in 1986, and in 2001, regulations were amended for the seventh time to make them the strictest ever. In an effort to explore all management options, a research effort was initiated in 1988 to examine the potential for increasing abundance using stocked fish. Based on encouraging research findings, this program was expanded in 2002 to a statewide demonstration scale effort involving three estuarine systems. These systems were stocked with a total of 1.8 million marked fish in fall, 2002. Stocking project components integrate fishery dependent and independent sampling to assess biological implications and social and economic aspects are being added to provide a broad overview of impacts. Through this integrated approach of fishery and population monitoring, landings restrictions, and stocking of fish, it is hoped that red drum abundance can be increased more rapidly than by using traditional management techniques alone.