SAFMC Managed Species – Old

Latest Version of Managed Species Team FEP-II - Species Summaries        4

Snapper Grouper Complex        9

Seabasses and groupers        9

Seabasses: Family Serranidae        9

Black Sea Bass        9

Bank Sea Bass        11

Rock Sea Bass        12

Gag Grouper        13

Red Grouper        14

Scamp        15

Snowy Grouper        16

Speckled Hind        17

Black Grouper        18

Rock Hind        19

Red Hind        20

Graysby        21

Yellowfin Grouper        22

Coney        23

Yellowmouth Grouper        24

Goliath Grouper        25

Epinephelus itajara - Goliath Grouper,        25

Nassau Grouper        27

Yellowedge Grouper        28

Hyporthodus flavolimbatus - Yellowedge Grouper,        28

Warsaw Grouper        29

Hyporthodus nigritus - Warsaw Grouper (Jewfish (misnomer), black jewfish, Warsaw)        29

Tiger Grouper        31

Tilefishes        32

Blueline Tilefish        32

Golden Tilefish        33

Sand Tilefish        34

Triggerfishes        35

Gray Triggerfish        35

Ocean Triggerfish        36

Jacks        37

Greater Amberjack        37

Almaco Jack        38

Banded Rudderfish        39

Bar Jack        40

Lesser Amberjack        41

Porgies        42

Red Porgy        42

Knobbed Porgy        43

Jolthead Porgy        44

Whitebone Porgy        45

Saucereye Porgy        46

Scup / Longspine Porgy        47

Snappers        48

Red Snapper        48

Vermilion Snapper        49

Queen Snapper        50

Yellowtail Snapper        51

Gray Snapper        52

Mutton Snapper        53

Lane Snapper        54

Cubera Snapper        55

Silk Snapper        56

Mahogany Snapper        57

Blackfin Snapper        58

White Grunt        59

Margate        60

Tomtate        61

Sailor’s Choice        62

Cotton Wick        63

Wrasses        64

Hogfish        64

Spade Fishes        65

Spade Fish        65

Wreckfishes        66

Wreckfish        66

Coastal Migratory Pelagics        67

King Mackerel        67

Spanish Mackerel        67

Cobia        68

Dolphin/Wahoo        71

Wahoo        71

Dolphin        72

Golden Crab        79

Lobsters        86

Spiny Lobster        86

Coral – Roger & Chip - Need same type of summary        91

Sargassum – Roger & Chip - Need same type of summary        91

Literature        92


Snapper Grouper Complex

Seabasses and groupers

Seabasses: Family Serranidae

Black Sea Bass   

Editors: Grant Gilmore, Marcel Reichert and Walter Bubley

Centropristis striata - Black Sea Bass (Blackfish, Pinbass, Rock bass),

 

Larger Black Sea Bass are black, while the smaller individuals are more of a dusky brown, with both having a belly that is only slightly lighter in color than the sides. The fins are dark, and the dorsal is marked with a series of white spots and bands. In larger fish, the upper portion of the caudal fin ends as a filament. During spawning, males may have a conspicuous blue nuchal hump.Black Sea Bass can be separated from their closest relatives, the Rock Sea Bass, C. philadelphica and the Bank Sea Bass, C. ocyurus, by color and morphology, body depth, and gill raker and fin ray counts.

Black Sea Bass is a temperate species with permanent reproducing populations from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Cape Canaveral, Florida, and in the north-eastern Gulf of Mexico. Larval Black Sea Bass settle in coastal and estuarine waters often near structure and migrate to inshore and mid-shelf reefs when they grow larger and mature.  Once settled on (offshore) reefs, site fidelity is very high.Black Sea Bass are opportunistic feeders eating whatever is available, preferring crabs, shrimp, worms, small fish and clams.

Black Sea Bass can reach a maximum age of about 11 years, but can live longer (up to 20 years) in others regions), and grow to 24 inches or 6 pounds.

Black Sea Bass are protogynous hermaphrodites, transitioning from female to male at about 4 years of age and a length of about 10 inches. Females can mature within their first year and around 6 inches in length (larger elsewhere). The spawning season extends from February through September, but peaks in the cooler months of February through April. Females spawn multiple times during the spawning season with the number of eggs produced during the spawning season ranging from 30,000 to 500,000 depending on fish size.

In the SE, Black Sea Bass is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP. Black Sea Bass has been under intense commercial and recreational fishing pressure at least since the late 1970s, being an important reef fish species targeted by both fisheries. It is caught in hook and line and trap fisheries.

Other vulnerabilities and sources of mortality include decline in estuarine water quality, harmful algal blooms, and predation by larger reef predators, potentially including invasive lionfish.

Bank Sea Bass

Editors: Marcel Reichert and Walter Bubley

Centropristis ocyurus - Bank sea bass (Rock squirrel, Rockfish (misnomer))

Bank Sea Bass is a warm temperate, small demersal serranid with a tapering yellow-brown body with tri-lobed caudal fin. There are black markings which consist of three longitudinal rows of blotches on the sides in addition to spots on the dorsal and caudal fins. The head, fins, and front portion of the body often have blue and yellow spots and stripes. Bank Sea Bass are similar in appearance to Rock Sea Bass, but can be distinguished by the lack of dermal flaps above the dorsal fin spines.

Bank Sea Bass occurs in reefs or rocky offshore habitats from Cape Lookout, North Carolina, to the Yucatan banks of the southern Gulf of Mexico. It is found in waters ranging from 50-500 feet and in the SE it is more common in shelf edge habitats than the Black Sea Bass, which is found more on inner- and mid-shelf reefs. Bank sea bass is an opportunistic carnivore consuming crustaceans, mollusks, fishes, and echinoderms.

Little is known about the life history of Bank Sea Bass. They can grow to about 15.5 inches and nearly 2 lbs, and live to a maximum age of 7 to 8 years. Bank Sea Bass are protogynous hermaphrodites and transition from female to male generally between 5 and 7 inches of length. Females mature when they are 2 or 3 years old and spawning occurs offshore between January and November, but peak spawning occurs from February through April. Female Bank Sea Bass can spawn multiple times during the spawning season and can spawn, depending on size, well over 30,000 eggs in a spawning season.

In the SE, Bank Sea Bass is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP. Bank Sea Bass is of limited direct economic value and is captured incidentally by anglers and commercial fishermen.


Rock Sea Bass         

Suggested editor(s): David Wyanski and Fritz Rhode

Centropristis philadelphica - Rock sea bass

Rock Sea Bass is small demersal serranid with a tri-lobed caudal fin, an overall brown/greenish color with 5-7 darker bars (saddles) along the dorsal area, and long fleshy tabs on dorsal fin spines. The fins have diffuse light and darker brown bands. It can be confused with Bank sea bass which is similar in size and appearance, but Rock Sea Bass has a black blotch at the posterior end of the spinous dorsal fin that is continuous with one of the bars. Black sea bass grows to a larger larger size and is black in color.

Rock Sea Bass is a warm temperate species that occurs in the Western Atlantic from North Carolina to Palm Beach, Florida as well as the northern Gulf of Mexico. It prefers hard bottom, rocks, jetties, and ledges. This species has a fast growth rate and reaches a maximum size of 300 mm (11.9 inches) and a maximum age of 3 yr. Rock Sea Bass is an opportunistic bottom feeder with a diet mostly consisting of crustaceans, small fish, polychaetes, and mollusks (if soft tissue exposed via injury).

Rock Sea Bass is a protogynous hermaphrodite that matures at an early age (1 yr) and undergoes sex transition at Ages 1-2 yr. Spawning occurs at offshore locations (depths > 12 m) during February through July, with a peak in April and May. The sex ratio is skewed toward females at younger ages, with the % females ranging from 100% at Age 0 to 60% at Age 2 to 0% at Age 3.

In the SE, Rock Sea Bass is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP. Rock Sea Bass is of limited direct economic interest and is captured incidentally by anglers and commercial fishermen.


Gag Grouper

Editors:  Grant Gilmore, Marcel Reichert, and Walter Bubley

 

Mycteroperca microlepis - Gag, Gag grouper (Gray grouper, Charcoal belly (large males))

 Gag is a large (145 cm) grouper with a compressed body. Coloration is highly variable and changes with the size of the fish but has some variation of a distinct reticulate body color pattern. Large gag are dark brownish-gray above and paler below, with traces of dark wavy markings on the sides. Smaller fish are much lighter and have numerous dark brown or charcoal reticulate marks along the sides.  Large males sometimes display a "blackbelly" and "black-back" phase that is mostly pale grey, with a network of faint dark markings below the soft dorsal fin; the belly and ventral part of the body above anal fin are black in this phase, as are edge of the soft dorsal fin, central rear part of the tail fin and rear margins of pectoral and pelvic fin. Gag resembles Black grouper, Scamp, and Yellowmouth grouper, but can de distinguished by its distinct reticulate body color pattern and caudal fin shape. The deeply notched preopercle further distinguish them from the most similar Black grouper.

Gag is a warm temperate species, from the Yucatan Peninsula throughout the Gulf of Mexico, around the Florida peninsula northward to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. They are usually found shallower than 115 m on sponge-coral habitat and rock ledges. Larvae and/or juveniles migrate to specific estuarine seagrass and oyster reef habitats at depths less than 3 feet and leave for shallow coastal shelf reefs in the fall and winter of their first year. They prey on crabs, shrimp, lobster, octopus, squid and fish that live close to reefs.

Gag can grow to over 5 feet in length and live over 30 years. Gag are protogynous, transitioning from females to male at an age of about 10 yrs and a length of about 39 inches. Female Gag mature at an age of 3-4 yrs, when they are about 28-31 inches long. The sex ratio may have been changed from historical levels as a result of overfishing, skewing towards more females. Spawning occurs from December through May, with a peak between February and April, at which time they may make annual spawning migrations to specific locations where they may form spawning aggregations. Adult spawning aggregations have been reported on shelf edge reefs at depths of 240 – 300 ft.

In the southeast, Gag is managed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council under the Snapper-Grouper Fishery Management Plan and is subject to annual catch limits, size and bag limits, trip limits, gear restrictions, and a spawning season closure.  Gag is a popular target by commercial and recreational fishermen using a variety of hook and line gear, including electric and snapper reels, power heads, and spear-guns.

Because Gag post-larvae and juveniles depend on specific estuarine micro-habitats, seagrass and oyster reefs, non-fishery mortality can be high with the loss of these habitats due to anthropogenic causes.


Red Grouper

Editors: Marcel Reichert and Walter Bubley (ask Ted Switzer and Ed Matheson to review)

Epinephelus morio - The Red Grouper

The Red Grouper is a protogynous serranid that is associated with reef habitat, especially the adults, in the Western Atlantic from Massachusetts through the Gulf of Mexico and south to Brazil with a disjunct distribution off the Atlantic coast.  They are commonly caught off NC, northern SC and southern FL, but are rare from southern SC to northern FL. Red Grouper are reported to occur at depths of 80-400 ft. Red Grouper inhabits ledges, crevices, and caverns of rocky limestone reefs, and also lower-profile, live-bottom areas. They are also known to be important ecosystem engineers due to their creation of large depressions in the sea floor which become habitat for various species.

Red Grouper are easily recognized by their deep brownish-red color and by the sloped, straight line of their spiny dorsal fin. The fin has a long second spine and an unnotched interspinous membrane, while other Epinephelus groupers have a notched dorsal spine membrane and a third spine longer than the second. The body has occasional white spots on the sides, and there are often dark spots on the snout or cheeks. The inside of the mouth is bright red-orange. The Red Grouper is most closely related to the Nassau Grouper, which has several vertical bars and blotches, and is found more commonly on coral reefs in the West Indies.

Red grouper can live to over 25 years, with older fish reaching a size of 32.5 inches and 25 pounds. Red grouper are protogynous hermaphrodites transitioning from female to male at an age of about 8 years and a length of about 28 in. Female Red Grouper mature at an age of about 3 years, when they are about 20 in. Red Grouper spawning season is from February through June, with a peak in April. Females can spawn multiple times during the spawning season and can release over 1.5 million pelagic eggs in a season. The eggs remain at the surface for 30-40 days before the larvae settle to the bottom.

In the SE, Red Grouper is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits, size and bag limits, trip limits, gear restrictions, and a spawning season closure. It is targeted by recreational and commercial fishers using a variety of hook and line gear, including snapper reels and spear guns.


Scamp

Editors: Marcel Reichert and Wally Bubley

Mycteroperca phenax - Scamp (Broomtail)

Scamp is a small to medium sized slender-bodied grouper. They are identified by their pronounced anal and soft dorsal ray extensions, a more concave profile of the head, and by their color. Scamp have a tan to grayish-brown body covered with sharply defined, well-separated dark spots, which are approximately an eighth of an inch in diameter. Yellowmouth Grouper can have a very similar appearance, but generally live in deeper waters.

Scamp can be found along the Atlantic Coast of the US from North Carolina to Key West, FL, in the Gulf of Mexico, and along the southern shores of the Caribbean. Scamp inhabit low-profile live-bottom areas, areas of living Oculina coral (off Florida east coast), and over ledges and high-relief rocky bottoms in waters between 75 to 300 feet deep. Scamp can be an aggressive ambush predators preying on crabs, shrimp, and fish.

Scamp can live up to 30 years and reach lengths to over 40 inches and weighing more than 35 pounds. Scamp are protogynous hermaphrodites transitioning from female to male at the age of 5 to 9 when they are 20 to 30 inches long. Female Scamp mature at an age of 1-2 yrs, when they are about 14 inches long. Scamp spawn from February to August with a peak in March and April.

In the SE, Scamp is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits, size and bag limits, trip limits, gear restrictions, and a spawning season closure. Scamp is highly prized and has been targeted by commercial and recreational fisheries. Scamp is caught using various hook and line gear, including snapper reels, and spearguns.


Snowy Grouper

Editors: Marcel Reichert, Wally Bubley, and George Sedberry

Hyporthodus niveatus - Snowy Grouper (chocolate grouper)

Snowy Grouper is a large deepwater reef-associated species.  Although coloration varies with the size, smaller fish are dark brown overall, punctuated with pearly white spots on the sides that are not always visible on larger fish. A distinctive black, saddle occurs on the upper caudal peduncle and extends down below the lateral line. Larger Snowy Grouper usually lose the white spots and caudal saddle and become dark brown with a slight coppery tint. The spiny portion of the dorsal fin has a black margin. It is rarely confused with other species.

        Snowy Grouper occurs in the western Atlantic from Massachusetts to Brazil, including Bermuda, Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Gulf of Mexico.  Off the southeastern US, Snowy Grouper can be found on the outer continental shelf and upper slope at depths greater than 150 feet in habitats characterized by ridges, terraces and precipitous cliffs; or on wrecks and artificial reefs. Snowy Grouper is a bottom fish that ambushes bottom-dwelling prey. The most common diet items are deepwater crabs, but finfish are eaten also.

         Snowy Grouper is relatively long-lived and may reach a maximum age of 35 years and a weight of 70 pounds.  Like many groupers, it  is a protogynous hermaphrodite transitioning from female to male at the age of 10-17 when they are about three feet long. Female Snowy grouper mature at an age of 5-6 yrs, when they are about 24 inches long. The spawning season is from April to September, with a peak in May to August

In the Atlantic waters of the southeast U.S., Snowy Grouper is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits, bag limits, trip limits, gear restrictions, and a seasonal closures.  Snowy Grouper landings occur primarily in commercial fisheries using snapper reels, but some recreational hook and line catch occurs, particularly at the shallow end of the depth range (160-200 feet).


Speckled Hind

Editors: Grant Gilmore, Marcel Reichert, Walter Bubley, and George Sedberry

Epinephelus drummondhayi - Speckled Hind (Kitty Mitchell, strawberry grouper)

Speckled Hind is a distinctive grouper with a laterally-compressed body densely covered with small pearly white spots on a dark reddish-purple to brown background.  Some juveniles undergo a “xanthic phase”, where white spots cover a light yellow background.

Speckled Hind is a warm-temperate species, occurring from the Yucatan Peninsula throughout the Gulf of Mexico, around the Florida peninsula northward to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and Bermuda. It is absent from the tropical continental and insular Caribbean Sea and Bahama Islands. They commonly inhabit mid-shelf to upper continental slope reef habitats at depths ranging from 65 to 600 feet.  Speckled Hind is usually found inshore of more typical deepwater reef fish such as Tilefish, and Snowy, Warsaw and Yellowedge groupers. Yellow (xanthic) phase juvenile Speckled Hind have been observed on shelf-edge Oculina coral reefs off east central Florida, and on shelf-edge hard-bottom reefs off South Carolina.Speckled Hind is considered piscivorous and generally engulf their prey whole.

Speckled Hind can reach a maximum age of 35 yrs, and can weigh over 50 pounds (the world record is 64-pound caught off North Carolina).  Speckled Hind are protogynous hermaphrodites spawning over a prolonged period from April to October with a peak in May to August. Females transition to male at 6 years of age or older and at a length of 1.5-2.0 feet. Female Speckled Hind mature at an age of 4-6 yrs, when they are about 1.5 feet long.

In the Atlantic waters of the southeast U.S., Speckled Hind is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP. Speckled Hind are caught on shelf edge and continental slope reefs using hook-and-line gear including electric reels and bottom longlines.

 Predation by larger groupers and snappers is highly likely in early developmental stages, and invasive lionfish have been documented to feed on juvenile Epinehelus groupers.


Black Grouper

Editors: Jack McGovern and George Sedberry

Mycteroperca bonaci - Black grouper

Black Grouper is a large reef fish that is grayish or dark brown, with irregular coppery spots (some spots join to form chain-like streaks).  The pectoral fins are dusky brown, gradually becoming orange at the edge; the soft dorsal and anal fins and leading edges of pelvic fins have a dark margin.  The preopercle (cheek) bone is evenly rounded, without a notch or projecting bony lobe at the corner.  Black Grouper is often confused with Gag; however, the most noticeable color difference is the coppery spots on Black Grouper that do not occur on Gag.  The tail of Gag is slightly concave, whereas the tail of a Black Grouper is squared off.

Black Grouper occur off North Carolina to Florida, around Bermuda, and in the Gulf of Mexico, West Indies, and from Central America to southern Brazil. Adults are found over hard bottom such as coral reefs and rocky ledges. Black Grouper occur at depths of 30-100 ft. Juveniles sometimes occur in estuarine seagrass and oyster habitat, or on shallow patch reefs.

Black Grouper live for at least 33 years and attain sizes as great as five feet. Black Grouper change sex from female to male, and approximately 50% of females are sexually mature by 2.7 ft. and 5.2 years of age. At a length of 4 ft. and an age of 15.5 years, approximately 50% of the females have become males. Black grouper are in spawning condition throughout the year; however, peak spawning of females occurs from January to March.  

In the southeast, Black Grouper are managed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council under the Snapper-Grouper Fishery Management Plan and are subject to annual catch limits, size and bag limits, trip limits, gear restrictions, and a spawning season closure.  Most of the landings are in the Florida Keys.  


Rock Hind

Editors: George Sedberry and Grant Gilmore

Epinephelus adscensionis - Rock Hind

Rock Hind is a medium-sized grouper that is generally yellow-brown or pale greenish.  The body is covered with reddish-brown spots and scattered pale blotches; there is usually 3-5 dark brown blotches (groups of dark spots) at the base of the dorsal fin and a blackish brown blotch on top of of the caudal peduncle.  The maximum lengths is about 24 inches.  Rock Hind occurs on rocky reefs in depths of 6-350 ft.  It feeds mainly on crabs and fishes.  Females mature at 12 in. (2 years old); ripe females (14-17 in.) were noted from January to June at the Florida Middle Grounds.

Rock Hind has a large range and is known from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and some of its islands.  In the region, Rock Hind occurs in Bermuda and from North Carolina to Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Caribbean to southern Brazil.  

Rock Hind has been observed to spawn in aggregations near insular shelf edges in depths of 66-98 ft., January through March.  Off South Carolina, females in spawning condition have been collected during May through August.  Rock Hind are reported to be protogynous.  Crabs compose the majority of their diet, but Rock Hind have also been observed to feed on fishes and young sea turtles.
        Rock Hind is of minor importance to commercial and sport fisheries in the region, as it is less abundant than other groupers.  Rock Hind are managed by the South Atlantic Council.  It is caught with hook-and-line and spears.


Red Hind

Editors: Jack McGovern  

Epinephelus guttatus - Red hind

Red hind and Rock hind (Epinephelus adscensionis) are characterized by numerous dark spots on a lighter background.  This color feature alone distinguishes the two species from Speckled hind. Red hind have pale pink bodies with uniform red spots.  The back and the sides of Red hind lack the large black blotches or saddles that are seen on Rock hind, and the soft-rayed portions of the dorsal and anal fins as well as caudal fin of Red hind  are margined in black.

The species is found in tropical and subtropical waters as deep as 400 feet, from North Carolina to Brazil, including the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. It is most abundant off Bermuda and in the West Indies.

The species may live up to 17 years or longer.  Maximum reported size is 76.0 cm TL (male) and 25.0 kg. Red hind is protogynous.  Spawning occurs from March to July off the Southeast U.S., and females release an average of 90 thousand to 3 million pelagic eggs.  Annual spawning aggregations occur during the full moon in January and February off the southwest coast of Puerto Rico and during the summer in Bermuda with no relation to lunar periodicity.

Red hind is managed by the South Atlantic Council.   Commercial and recreational landings are small.


Graysby

Editors: George Sedberry and Ed Matheson

Cephalopholis cruentata - Graysby

The Graysby is a smaller species of grouper that varies in color from pale gray to dark brown.  It has many darker orangish to red-brown spots on its body, fins, and head, and 3-5 pale or dark spots that run along the base of the dorsal fin. A white line runs between the eyes from the nape to the lower lip.  The tail is more rounded than in similar species. This species and the Coney have only 9 spines in their dorsal fins, whereas other groupers in the area have 10 or 11 spines.

Graysby occur from North Carolina to south Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and Bermuda. The Graysby inhabits live bottom habitat, and is found as deep as 557 ft. It is sedentary, solitary, and secretive, usually hiding during the day, and feeding at night.

Maximum reported size is 17 in. and 2.4 lbs. In the Caribbean, individuals in spawning condition have been observed in March, and from May to July, and spawning there occurs from July through October. Female Graysby approaching spawning condition have been found during summer off the Southeastern United States. Size and age at first maturity are estimated as 5.5 in. TL and 3.5 years.  Sexual transition occurs at sizes ranging from 5.5-10.3 in. Tl with most transitional individuals occurring between the sizes of 7.9-9.1 in. TL and ages 4-5.  Maximum reported age is 13 years and maximum size is 17 in. TL.

Juveniles feed on shrimp, while adults eat primarily fishes. Adult Graysby eat bony fish, shrimp, stomatopods, crabs, and gastropods.  


Yellowfin Grouper

Editors:  Walter Bubley and Grant Gilmore.

Mycteroperca venenosa - Yellowfin grouper (Fireback)

        

Yellowfin Grouper is a large grouper with a highly greenish olive or bright red color with longitudinal rows or darker black blotches over its entire body. The outer one-third of pectoral fins are bright yellow, while the lower parts of larger fish have small bright red spots. In shape, Scamp and Yellowmouth Grouper are similar, but the Yellowfin Grouper’s coloration is distinctive enough to avoid misidentification.

Yellowfin Grouper occurs in the Western Atlantic, ranging from Bermuda to Brazil and the Guianas, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea at depths of 7-449 ft. Off the southeastern US, it is mostly found offshore on reefs off southern portions of Florida. The juveniles are commonly found in shallow seagrass beds, while adults occur over rocky areas and coral reefs. Yellowfin Grouper is primarily a piscivore, but includes squid in its diet.

Yellowfin Grouper can grow to 40 inches TL and 40 lbs, while reaching ages of 15 years. They are protogynous hermaphrodites, but data on maturity and transition from female to male is largely lacking. Spawning occurs from February to August, but off Florida most spawning activity is seen in May. Yellowfin Grouper seem to aggregate for spawning at some of the same sites utilized by Tiger Grouper, Nassau Grouper, and Black Grouper.

In the Atlantic waters off the southeast United States, Yellowfin Grouper are managed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council under the Snapper-Grouper Fishery Management Plan and are subject to annual catch limits, size and bag limits, gear restrictions, and a spawning season closure.  


Coney

Editor(s):  Marcel Reichert and George Sedberry

Cephalopholis fulva - Coney

Coney is a small grouper with red fins, many small blue spots edged with black line scattered on the body, a caudal peduncle with two prominent black spots on the upper edge, and a pair of black blotches on the tip of the lower jaw.   The overall body color is highly variable, from yellow or red to brown or bicolored.

Coney occurs in the Western Atlantic, ranging from South Carolina and Bermuda to southern Brazil. The Coney is a common species in shallow waters, and is a sedentary species that usually hides in caves or under ledges during the day. It is often seen in coral reefs and clear water, and can be found to depths as great as 492 ft.  Coneys are predators, feeding mostly on crustaceans and small fish; they may also follow morays and snake eels to feed.

The maximum reported length for coneys is 16 in. and they can reach an age of 11 years.

Coney is a protogynous hermaphrodite transitioning from female to male at a length of about 8 in.  Females mature at about 5.1-6.3 in.  Spawning occurs in small groups composed of one male and multiple females. Although ripe ovaries can be found in female Coney from November to March, spawning activity appears to be linked to particular moon phases (several days around the last quarter and new moon) in January and February.

In the SE, Coney is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP. There is not much of a directed fishery for coney, which are most commonly caught off the southeast Florida and in the Caribbean. Most commercial landings of coney are often labeled as unclassified grouper. They are mostly caught by hook and line gear.


Yellowmouth Grouper

Editors: Marcel Reichert and Dave Wyanski.

Mycteroperca interstitialis -  Yellowmouth grouper

Yellowmouth grouper is a tan or brown grouper with darker spots. It has spots, or a network of spots, fused into lines on the body, and a distinct yellow wash behind the jaws, yellow around the eyes and the outer edges of fins yellowish. Young fish are bi-colored, dark above with white below. It is very similar to Scamp, but adults generally occurs in deeper waters.

Yellowmouth grouper occurs along the eastern U.S. coast, Bermuda, Bahamas, Gulf of Mexico, and in the Caribbean south to Brazil. Adults are found over rocky hard bottom and coral reefs near the shoreline to depths of up to 150 m. Young commonly occur in mangrove lined lagoons. Yellowmouth grouper mostly eat fish, but also consumes crustaceans.

Yellowmouth grouper can l grow to about 850 mm (33 inches), weighing over 10 kg (22.5 lbs). The maximum age is reported to be between 28 to 41 years.

Yellowmouth grouper is a protogynous hermaphrodite transitioning from female to male at a length of about 500 to 600 mm cm (20-25 inches) at an age between 5 and 14 years.  Females mature at about 400-450 mm (16-18 inches) and between the age of 2 and 4 years. Yellowmouth grouper may spawn all year, but peak spawning (in the Gulf of Mexico) is in March to May. Spawning occurs in small groups composed of one male and multiple females

        In the SE, Yellowmouth grouper is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP. There is not much of a directed fishery for yellowmouth grouper, but is is generally caught with other deep water snapper/grouper species by both commercial and recreational fishers. They are mostly caught by hook and line gear, including snapper reel.


Goliath Grouper

Editors: Marcel Reichert, Walter Bubley, Grant Gilmore, Luiz Barbieri.

Epinephelus itajara - Goliath Grouper,

Goliath Grouper is one of the largest and most distinctive groupers in the southeastern US. The first (spinous) dorsal consists of a series of short spines not seen in other regional groupers. Head and fins are covered with small black spots, and  irregular dark vertical bars present on the sides of body. The pectoral and caudal fin are rounded, and the first dorsal fin is shorter than, and not separated from second dorsal.

Goliath Grouper occurs in estuaries as post-larvae, juveniles (in mangroves and seagrass) and adults with a center of abundance in shallow nearshore and mid-shelf reefs, rarely to depths of more than 330 ft. Goliath grouper feed primarily on crustaceans, particularly spiny lobsters, as well as turtles and fishes, including stingrays. It is a territorial species, and larger individuals have reportedly stalked and approached divers.

The maximum reported size is 99 in. TL (male) and over 1,000 lbs. The reported maximum age is 37 years. However, it is likely that this species could live much longer if left unexploited. There is some evidence that males may transform from immature females. Males exhibit a similar testicular structure to those of other serranids that are protogynous, however, some mature males are smaller than mature females. Males  mature at 43.6 in. TL and age 4, with all males being mature at 45.6 in and age 7. Females  mature at 47.0 in TL and  age 6, while all are mature at 53.1 in. TL and age 8. Goliath Grouper form consistent spawning aggregations. Spawning occurs during full moon from June through December, with a peak in July through September. Spawning locations are shipwrecks, rock ledges, and isolated, and reef habitat.

In the SE, Goliath Grouper are managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP. Goliath Groupers are typically captured by hook and line, mostly incidental to other bottom fisheries (grouper/snapper and snook).  Because Goliath Grouper post-larvae and juveniles depend on specific estuarine micro-habitats, seagrass and mangrove forest, estuarine reefs, non-fishery mortality can be high with the loss of these habitats or major declines in water quality. Unfortunately the majority of estuarine seagrass and most  mangrove habitat (over 90%) has been lost in estuaries of the southeastern US due to coastal urbanization and impoundment for mosquito control.


Nassau Grouper

Editors: George Sedberry and Grant Gilmore.

The Nassau Grouper is easily distinguished from other shallow-water groupers by the five dark bars on the body and the black saddle on the tail, just before the tail fin.

Nassau Grouper occurs on coral reefs and associated habitats in the tropical Western Atlantic, and range from Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Florida to southern Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico.  Juveniles are common in seagrass beds.  

Nassau Grouper is a medium-sized grouper (maximum 48 in and 30 lbs maximum) that is famous for its large spawning aggregations that form at predictable times and places, primarily in winter.  Unlike most other groupers, where some large females become males, Nassau Grouper have individuals that begin life as males, with some females having a potential for sex change. Male and female Nassau Grouper mature between 16 and 20 in at ages between 4-8 years. The spawning season is associated with water temperature and the moon phase. At lower latitudes, spawning activity lasts for about one week per month during December through February.

In the SE, Goliath Grouper are managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP. Goliath Groupers are typically captured by hook and line, mostly incidental to other bottom fisheries.         


Yellowedge Grouper

Editors: Grant Gilmore and George Sedberry

Hyporthodus flavolimbatus - Yellowedge Grouper.

 

Yellowedge Grouper belongs to a complex of deepwater groupers that include the Warsaw, Snowy and Misty Groupers. The Yellowedge and Snowy Groupers lack the elongate second dorsal spine that is so obvious in the Warsaw Groupers.  Yellowedge Grouper typically do not show the classical lateral spot pattern that the Snowy Grouper has.

Yellowedge Grouper is a warm-temperate species with spawning populations from Cape Hatteras North Carolina to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to Brazil. It occurs on reefs and sand/mud bottom at depths ranging from 210 to 902 ft.  On soft-bottom habitats it  is often seen within or near trenches or burrow-like excavations. Yellowedge Grouper eat a wide variety of invertebrates (mainly brachyuran crabs) and fishes.  

Yellowedge Grouper are one of the longest living groupers as are other members of this deepwater group, likely exceeding 85 yrs . The maximum reported size is 45.3 in. and 41 lbs.  Yellowedge Groupers are protogynous hermaphrodites, reversing sex with over half the females having transformed into males at 32 in.  In the Gulf of Mexico, 50% of fish are mature at 22.4 in.  Spawning occurs from April through October in the South Atlantic .  Yellowedge Grouper spawning aggregations have been observed around deep slope shipwrecks off east central Florida.

Yellowedge Grouper  managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP, and are caught in shelf edge and deep continental slope hook and line fisheries, both in commercial and recreational fisheries.  A variety of hook and line gear are used including electric reels and bottom multi-hook long lines.  Non-fishery mortality sources are largely unknown as critical post-larvae and juvenile habitat for Yellowedge Grouper has not been documented. 


Warsaw Grouper

Editor(s): George Sedberry and Grant Gilmore

Hyporthodus nigritus - Warsaw Grouper (Jewfish (misnomer), black jewfish, Warsaw)

The Warsaw Grouper belongs to a complex of deep water groupers that include the Yellowedge, Snowy and Misty Groupers.  Warsaw Grouper has 10 dorsal spines, the second of which is much longer than the third, which distinguishes it from all others in this complex. The color is a grayish brown to dark reddish-brown background with numerous small, irregular white blotches on the sides. The color appears much lighter around the nape and along the posterior margin of the operculum. All of the fins are dark brown, except the white-splotched spiny portion of the dorsal fin. The young are characterized by a yellow caudal fin; dark saddle on caudal peduncle; and some whitish spots on body.

Warsaw grouper is a warm-temperate cool water species with permanent breeding populations in deep reefs along the continental shelf edge and deep slope from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to east central Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. The Warsaw Grouper has been consistently observed in small groups typically with a single very large (80 in. TL) individual around deep Oculina coral reefs and shipwrecks at depths from 180 - 1,722 ft on the east central coast of Florida. The warsaw's huge mouth enables it to engulf prey whole after capturing it.

Warsaw Grouper are protogynous hermaphrodites. Females mature 40 in. TL at 9 yrs.  Female to male transition size is unknown, but the largest reported females were 45 in. while the smallest male was 47 in. and 10 yrs old. The oldest and largest males are reported to be 41 yrs and 92 in. The maximum age is estimated at 44 - 46 yrs. The Warsaw Grouper spawning activity has not been documented in the SE US, Atlantic but is estimated to occur from spring into summer based on post-larval collections and aging and is known to spawn August - October in the Gulf of Mexico, and during April and May off Cuba.

In the SE Atlantic the Warsaw Grouper is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP. Warsaw Grouper are caught in shelf edge and deep continental slope hook and line fisheries, both in commercial and recreational fisheries. A variety of hook and line gear are used including electric reels and bottom multi-hook long lines. Non-fishery mortality sources are largely unknown as critical post-larvae and juvenile habitat for Warsaw Grouper has not been documented.  


Tiger Grouper

Editors: Jack McGovern

Mycteroperca tigris -  Tiger grouper

 Tiger grouper have a dark back crossed by 9 to 11 pale narrow lines that slope downward and forward. It can dramatically change color, pale or darken. Tiger grouper are occasionally bright red; juveniles are yellow with a dusky midbody streak.

Tiger grouper occur in the Western Atlantic, ranging from Bermuda and south Florida (USA) to Venezuela and, possibly Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. It inhabits coral reefs and rocky areas at depths of 32 to 130 ft.  

Maximum reported size is 40 in. TL (male) and 22 lbs. Tiger grouper is probably protogynous.  It forms aggregations at specific times and locations each year.  Spawning aggregations of Tiger Grouper occur one week after the full moon during January through April off Puerto Rico.  Tiger Grouper spawn from December through April off southwest Cuba.  The Tiger Grouper preys on a variety of fishes, and frequents cleaning stations.  

        Tiger Grouper are rare in landings in the southeastern United States, and are not subject to federal management by the SAFMC under the snapper/Grouper FMP.


Misty Grouper

Editors: Ed Matheson

Hyporthodus mystacinus - Misty Grouper

        Misty grouper have alternating light and dark bars from the nape to the base of the tail (usually 8 or 9 of each). Light and dark bars extend onto the dorsal and anal fins, and the two dark bars just before the tail may be joined into a broader and darker band around the caudal peduncle.

        The range of misty grouper is limited to the Western North Atlantic from North Carolina and Bermuda to the West Indies and probably northern South America; this species also apparently occurs in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. It inhabits both hard and soft bottom habits at depths from approximately 330 to 1,640 ft.

        Maximum size of misty grouper is 62 in. TL and 166 lbs. The age of two large specimens from Bermuda was estimated at 135 and 150 years. Like other groupers, misty groupers are probably protogynous hermaphrodites, but little is known about their biology. Misty grouper are known to consume crabs, shrimps, squid, and fish.

        Misty Grouper is managed by the SAFMC under the snapper/grouper complex, however it has been rare in landings. It is caught mostly buy hook and line.

        

        

        


Tilefishes

Blueline Tilefish

Editors: Marcel Reichert and Wally Bubley

Caulolatilus microps - Blueline Tilefish (Gray Tilefish, Tilefish)

Blueline Tilefish has a dull olive-gray overall appearance with white below. It has elongate, continuous dorsal and anal fins more than half the length of body, and a long snout with narrow gold stripe underlined in blue from snout to the tip of the eye. The gill cover has a strong, flat spine. The lack of fleshy protuberance behind the head distinguishes it from (Golden) Tilefish (Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps).

Blueline Tilefish is patchily distributed along the outer continental shelf of North America from Cape Lookout, NC, to Campeche Bank, Mexico.  Adults appear to move little, inhabiting areas along the outer continental shelf, shelf break, and upper slope on irregular bottom. Usual adult habitats include ledges or crevices and around boulders or rubble piles at depths of 160-820 ft, at water temperatures between 15-25oC. Individuals have been observed hovering near or entering burrows under rocks as observed in many other tilefishes (malacanthids). Blueline Tilefish feeds on bottom creatures, such as crabs, shrimp, snails, worms, sea urchins, and small fish.

Blueline Tilfefish can live to at least 26 year but the expected maximum age may be closer to 45 years. There is dimorphic growth with males growing larger at age than females, with both sexes reaching over 32 inches in length.

Blueline Tilefish are gonochorists with an extended spawning season from February to October, with a peak March – September. They mature at the age of about 3 when they are 13 to 14 inches long. Females spawn multiple batches during the spawning season producing over 3 million eggs during a  season.

In the SE, Blueline Tilefish is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits, bag limits, trip limits, and gear restrictions. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishers. Hook and line is most commonly used by recreational fishers, snapper reels and longlines are the gear used most by commercial fishers to catch Blueline Tilefish.


Golden Tilefish

Editors: Marcel Reichert and Wally Bubley

Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps – Tilefish (Golden Tilefish)

Tilefish is a long-lived, slow-growing deepwater demersal member of the family Malacanthidae distributed along the outer continental shelf of North America from Nova Scotia to Key West, FL; in the Gulf of Mexico from the northern shoreline to Campeche Bank, Mexico, and off South America from Venezuela to Surinam.  Tilefish move little as adults and occupy burrows within clay bottoms or scour depressions around boulders or rubble piles in depths of 250-1,500 ft and water temperatures of about 9° -14° C.

Tilefish can reach a length of 38 inches and 40 years of age. It is easily distinguishable from other members of the family Malacanthidae by the large adipose flap, or crest, on the head. The species is blue-green and iridescent on the back, with numerous spots of bright yellow and gold, and a white belly.

 Females are smaller than males, although whether or not the species displays hermaphroditism is still under investigation.  Sexual maturity is reached when fish are about 27 inches long, 3 years of age, and weigh about 9 pounds. Female Tilefish spawns from March through November with a spawning peak occurring between April and June.  Male Tilefish was also in spawning condition from March through November, however, most spawning activity occurred from April through June.  

Tilefish feed during the day on the bottom on crustaceans, clams, snails, worms, anemones and sea cucumbers.  In the Atlantic waters off the SE United States, Tilefish is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and are subject to annual catch limits, bag limits, and gear restrictions. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishers. Hook and line is most commonly used by recreational fishers, while snapper reels and longlines are the gear used most by commercial fishers.


Sand Tilefish

Editor: George Sedberry

Malacanthus plumieri - Sand Tilefish

Sand Tilefish are elongate and slender pale gray fish that may have a bluish cast.  They are reef-associated but are found over sand and coral or rock rubble from near shore to depths of about 150, from Cape Lookout, NC, to Santos, Brazil, including Bermuda, Bahamas, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean (also around Ascension Island in South Atlantic).  

Sand Tilefish build mounds of rubble and shell fragments near reefs and grass beds. Prey items include stomatopods, fishes, polychaete worms, chitons, sea urchins, sea stars, amphipods, and shrimps.

Males guard territories that include several haremic females. The maximum reported size is 28 in. and 2.4 lbs; however the common average size is much smaller. There is little information on the life history of this species. Tilefishes that have been studied are not hermaphroditic, and it is likely that sand tilefish is also a gonochorist.

Sand Tilefish is of minor economic importance, but is probably landed and sold as mixed unidentified tilefish or reef fish. This species is managed by the SAFMC in the snapper/grouper FMP.  


Triggerfishes

Gray Triggerfish

Editors: Marcel Reichert and Walter Bubley

Balistes capriscus - Gray Triggerfish (Taly, Leatherjacket, Leatherneck)

The Gray Triggerfish,, has large incisor teeth and a deep laterally compressed body covered with tough, sandpaper-like skin. The Gray Triggerfish is easily distinguished from other triggerfishes in the SE, such as Queen Triggerfish, by its drab gray color. Triggerfish can be distinguished from filefish species by the presence of more than one dorsal spine.

Gray Triggerfish is a  warm-temperate, gonochorist species in the family Balistidae that is found throughout the Atlantic Ocean, including the Mediterranean Sea.  Gray Triggerfish occurs in coastal waters of the western Atlantic from Nova Scotia (Canada) to Argentina, including the Gulf of Mexico and Bermuda.  Throughout this distribution they generally are found at depths to 330 ft, though they are commonly found between 40 and 140 ft among reefs and hard-bottom habitat, such as wrecks and rock outcroppings.  The most common items in their diet as small mussels, sea urchins and barnacles, which they dislodge and crush with their teeth.

Gray Triggerfish can reach a maximum age of 15 years and length of 22 inches, with females growing larger and living longer than males. Female Gray Triggerfish begin maturing at 1 year of age and around 6 inches in length. Spawning occurs off-shore during the spring and summer, with Gray Triggerfish having demersal eggs that are deposited in guarded nests. Typically a single male guards a territory that houses several nests belonging to several females in a harem-like system.

In the Atlantic waters off the SE US, Gray Triggerfish is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits, size and bag limits, trip limits, and gear restrictions. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishers, with hook and line gear being the most commonly used.


Ocean Triggerfish

Editor: Walter Bubley and Marcel Reichert

Canthidermis sufflamen - Ocean triggerfish,

The Ocean Triggerfish is grayish in color with a dark edge on the dorsal and anal fins.  

It occurs in both the Western and Eastern Atlantic. In the Western Atlantic, it ranges from Massachusetts to South America, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. The ocean triggerfish is found at depths of 16-197 ft in mid-water or at the surface associated with Sargassum,  near drop-offs of seaward reefs, and occasionally in shallow waters. This species is sometimes solitary, but also is known to form small groups in open water of over 50 individuals. It is sometimes seen in association with the Black Durgon. This species feeds primarily on large zooplankton, but also eats benthic invertebrates.

Maximum reported size is 25.7 in TL (male) and 13.5 lbs. Spawning reportedly occurs year round with, but with a peak September.


Jacks

Greater Amberjack

Editors: Ed Matheson

Seriola dumerili – Greater Amberjack

Greater amberjack are large, silvery fish with a dark bar often passing through the eye and ending at the base of the first dorsal fin and a relatively long anal-fin base. A vertical line from the depressed lobe of the soft dorsal fin generally intersects the origin of the anal fin. They often have an amber stripe along mid-body. The dorsal fin usually has 7 spines, but it may appear to have only 6 because the last spine is small and may be covered by skin in larger specimens.

The Greater Amberjack, Seriola dumerilii, is a pelagic and epibenthic member of the family Carangidae.  This large jack is distributed from Nova Scotia to Brazil and throughout the Pacific, Indian, and Eastern Atlantic Oceans as well as the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea.  Greater Amberjack often are found near reefs, rocky outcrops, or wrecks off the southeastern United States, with a relatively broad depth range of 50 to 780 ft.

Greater Amberjack are gonochoristic with a spawning season from January to June with a peak in April and May.  They mature at 1 year of age and 29 in. FL.

Greater Amberjack are included in the Snapper-Grouper FMP and are managed by the SAFMC.  Recreational fishing for Greater Amberjack began in the early 1950s, but was not a targeted fishery until the 1970s.


Almaco Jack

Editor: George Sedberry

Seriola rivoliana - Almaco Jack

Description

The Almaco Jack, Seriola rivoliana, occurs in the Indo-West Pacific, in the Eastern Pacific, and in the Western Atlantic, where it occurs from Massachusetts to northern Argentina. This species is thought to occur in the Eastern Atlantic as well, but the extent of its distribution there is not well established (Myers 1991). A benthopelagic species, the almaco jack inhabits outer reef slopes and offshore banks, generally at depths from 15-160 m (49-525 ft). It has been observed to occur in small groups. Juveniles are often seen around floating objects (Myers 1991).

Diet

Maximum reported size is 63.4 in FL (male) and 132.1 lbs. Size at maturity is estimated at 32 in. FL. Fishes serve as its primary prey but invertebrates also make up a portion of its diet.

Fishery


Banded Rudderfish

Editor: George Sedberry and Walter Bubley

Seriola zonata - Banded Rudderfish

Banded Rudderfish are typically found in the Western Atlantic from Nova Scotia, Canada to Santos, Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. They are absent from Bahamas and most islands. Fish less than 11 inches long have dark band from eye to first dorsal fin and six prominent bars on body, while larger fish are bluish, greenish, or brown. The soft dorsal base is about twice the length of the anal fin and the tail-lobe is white tipped. They can be differentiated from other amberjacks by having a shallower body.

Adult Banded Rudderfish are pelagic or epibenthic and confined to coastal waters over the continental shelf. Young fish are associated with weed lines or floating debris and may follow sharks and other large fish. Banded Rudderfish feed on shrimp and fishes.

Banded Rudderfish is a relatively small carangid, reaching a maximum size of less than 30 inches and 11.5 lbs. Little is known about maturity and spawning.

In the Atlantic waters off the SE US, Banded Rudderfish is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits (in the jack complex), bag limits, and gear restrictions. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishers, with hook and line gear being the most commonly used.

 


Bar Jack

Editors: Jack McGovern and Marcel Reichert

Caranx ruber - Bar Jack

The Bar Jack, Caranx ruber, occurs in the Western Atlantic from New Jersey to southern Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and throughout the Caribbean Sea.  Fish less than 11 inches long have dark band from eye to first dorsal fin and six prominent bars on body; larger fish are bluish, greenish, or brown; soft dorsal base about twice the length of the anal fin; tail-lobe white tipped.

It is commonly found in clear insular areas or coral reef habitats off mainland coasts, from depths of 10-115 ft.  Juveniles frequent areas with Sargassum and appear to be common in shallow water (0-49 ft) reef habitats, but probably move to the outer margins of the shelf at or before maturity.  Bar Jack are founds in nearshore and offshore waters over hard bottom, generally in shallower water than other amberjacks.  Young are associated with weed lines or floating debris and may follow sharks and other large fish.   Bar Jack are sometimes solitary, but usually forms schools, possibly associated with spawning events.  Prey items include fishes, shrimps, and other invertebrates.

Maximum reported size is 27.3 in TL and 18.2 lbs.  The minimum size of maturity for both males and females off Jamaica is 8.7-9.5 in FL.  The mean length at maturity is 9.5 in TL for both sexes, and most fish are probably mature by 10.3-10.7 in FL.  Spawning occurs during all year with peak spawning during April and October.  Peak spawning off Cuba occurs during April and July.

In the Atlantic waters off the Southeast  U.S., Bar Jack are managed by the South Atlantic Council under the Snapper-Grouper FMP and are subject to annual catch limits (in the jacks complex), bag limits, and gear restrictions. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishers, with hook and line gear being the most commonly used.


Lesser Amberjack

Editors: Walter Bubley

Seriola fasciata - Lesser Amberjack

The Lesser Amberjack occurs in the Eastern and Western Atlantic Oceans. In the Western Atlantic, it is found from Massachusetts to Brazil. It has an olive green or brownish back and silversides, with a  dark band (variably present) extending backward and upward from eye. Juveniles can have split or wavy bars on their sides. Lesser Amberjack has a proportionately larger eye and deeper body than the Greater Amberjack.

This is a benthopelagic species, primarily found in depths of 180-430 ft, with smaller juveniles being epipelagic in oceanic or offshore neritic waters. Lesser Amberjack feeds on squids and fishes. It is a relatively small carangid, reaching a maximum reported size of 27 in and over 10 lbs. Sexually dimorphic growth was observed in the Gulf of Mexico, with females attaining a larger size than males. Little is known about maturity and spawning.

In the Atlantic waters off the SE US, Lesser Amberjack is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits (in the jack complex), bag limits, and gear restrictions. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishers, with hook and line gear being the most commonly used.


Porgies

Red Porgy

Editors: Marcel Reichert and Walter Bubley

Pagrus pagrus - Red Porgy (Pinky, Pink Porgy, Rose Porgy, Strawberry Porgy)

The Red Porgy is a sparid distributed throughout the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. In the western Atlantic, they range from New York, USA, the Caribbean Sea,  and through the Gulf of Mexico to Argentina. Their head and body are a silvery red, with many tiny blue spots. They are distinguished from other porgy species in the US by having a rear nostril that is round (not slit-like).

Off the Atlantic waters off the SE US, Red Porgy inhabit reefs on the middle to outer continental shelf and shelf-break  out to 920 feet in depth, but commonly found between 30 and 260 feet.  They are found over rock, rubble, or sand bottom, with young frequently found on seagrass beds and the continental shelf. They feed on crustaceans, fishes, and mollusks. Red Porgy in the northwestern Atlantic are thought to constitute a single stock, but are separate from the northeastern and southwestern Atlantic.

 Red Porgy are protogynous winter spawners (November-May), with the peak spawning season being November – March. Notable plasticity in the growth as well as reproductive parameters, such as size and age at female maturity and size and age at transition, has been documented (MR: should we add range?).  The oldest reported age is 14 years with sizes upwards of 20 inches.

In the SE, Red Porgy is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits, size and bag limits, trip limits, gear restrictions, and a spawning season closure. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishers, with hook and line gear being the most commonly used.

Knobbed Porgy

Editors: Marcel Reichert and Walter Bubley

Calamus nodosus - Knobbed porgy

The knobbed porgy has a conspicuously steep forehead and bony protrusions just in front of the eyes. The body is iridescent silvery blue, and the head is purplish with numerous yellow-bronze spots and blue streaks under the eyes.

Knobbed porgy occur in the Western Atlantic Ocean from North Carolina to Southern Florida, and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. This fish is a demersal species, and typically occurs over hard bottom habitat at depths from 25-300 ft.  Knobbed porgy have large incisors and strong molars which enable them to crush and consume hard-bodied animals, such as clams, snails, crabs, urchins, starfish and barnacles. They are fast enough to catch small fish, but fishes are rarely a part of their diet.

Maximum reported size is 21.4 in. TL (male/unsexed) and 5.8 lb. The maximum reported age is 21 years off the southeastern United States. Few immature fish were sampled by Sharp (2001). Length and age at which 100% of sampled fish are mature is 6 years and 11.8 in FL, respectively. Male to female sex ratios increased with increasing length and age, and histological evidence of protogyny was found. Females changed sex at 10.5-15.0 in. FL and 5-20 years, during any time of year. Females spawned during March-July with a peak during April and May, with an estimated spawning frequency of 1.5 days.

In the SE, knobbed Porgy is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits (porgy complex), bag limits, and gear restrictions. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishers, with hook and line gear being the most commonly used.


Jolthead Porgy

Editors: Ed Matheson and Walter Bubley

Calamus bajonado - Jolthead Porgy

Jolthead porgies are most recognizable by their long snout. They are generally silvery to brassy, with a bluish cast. The front of head is brown, sometimes with a blue line along lower rim of eye. Live specimens under water display a whitish stripe below the eye and another between the eye and mouth; these marks are said to fade quickly upon death. The corner of the mouth is orange.

Jolthead Porgy occur in the Western Atlantic from Rhode Island and Bermuda, southward to Brazil, including the northern Gulf of Mexico. This species inhabits coastal waters from 10–650 ft in depth. It can be found on vegetated sand bottoms, but occurs more frequently on coral and hard-bottom. Large adults are usually solitary. Maximum reported size is 30 inches and 23 lbs. Crabs and mollusks constitute its primary prey items.

Little is known about Jolthead Porgy reproduction in the Atlantic waters off the US, but maturity from the Gulf of Mexico ranges from 12-17 inches and 3-5 years of age.

In the SE, Jolthead Porgy is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits (porgy complex), bag limits, and gear restrictions. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishers, with hook and line gear being the most commonly used.


Whitebone Porgy

Editor:  Marcel Reichert and Walter Bubley  

Calamus leucosteus - Whitebone porgy

        Description

Whitebone porgy are found in the Western Atlantic from North Carolina to southern Florida in the USA and the entire Gulf of Mexico. They are most frequently encountered in or near sponge-coral habitats at depths of 33-328 ft. Off the Southeastern United States, whitebone porgy feed mainly on small hard-shelled species of gastropods, pagurid decapods, and sipunculids. Polychaetes, pelecypods, barnacles, and fishes are also eaten. Larger individuals consume fishes and echinoderms.

Off the Southeastern United States, maximum reported size is 16.2 in and maximum reported age is 12 years. Whitebone porgy are protogynous and approximately 60% of the females undergo sex reversal. Spawning occurs during April-August off the Southeastern United States with peak during May.  

In the SE, Whitebone Porgy is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits (porgy complex), bag limits, and gear restrictions. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishers, with hook and line gear being the most commonly used.


Saucereye Porgy

Editors Walter Bubley and Marcel Reichert

Calamus calamus - Saucereye porgy

The Saucereye Porgy a larger eye than the other porgies. Its color is silvery with bluish reflections; the scales golden, forming longitudinal stripes, with pearly-bluish interspaces; the cheeks and snout are purplish, with round brassy spots; the fins are pale, blotched with orange; the iris of the eye is golden.

Saucereye Porgy are a reef-associated species that occurs from North Carolina and Bermuda to Brazil at depths of 3-246 ft. Adults are frequently found in coral areas, while the young prefer seagrass (e.g. Thalassia) and sandy bottoms. Maximum reported size is 22.2 in. TL (male/unsexed) and 1.5 lbs. The diet of saucereye porgy includes polychaetes, echinoderms, mollusks, crabs, gastropods, and other benthic crustaceans.

In the SE, Saucereye Porgy is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits (porgy complex), bag limits, and gear restrictions. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishers, with hook and line gear being the most commonly used.


Scup / Longspine Porgy

Editor:  Fritz Rohde

(Text from original FEP – Not edited yet)

Longspine porgy

The longspine porgy, Stenotomus caprinus, is found on mud bottom from North Carolina to Georgia in the USA and in the Gulf of Mexico from northern Florida to Yucatan, Mexico at depths of 5-185 m (16-607 ft) (Froese and Pauly 2003). Maximum reported size is 30.0 cm (11.9 in) TL. Maximum age is reported to be 3 years. Their diet includes polychaetes, crabs, other benthic invertebrates, shrimps, prawns, fishes, stomatopods, and amphipods (Sheridan and Trimm 1983).

Scup

Scup, Stenotomus chrysops, occur in the Western Atlantic from Nova Scotia in Canada to Florida. Maximum reported size is 46.0 cm (18.2 in) TL (male/unsexed) and 2.1 kg (4.6 lbs). Length at 50% maturity is 15.5 cm (6.1 in) TL (O‘Brien et al. 1993). Spawning is reported to occur during June off North Carolina. Scup feeds on squid, polychaetes, amphipods, and other benthic invertebrates


Snappers

Red Snapper

Editor: Luiz Barbieri, Walter Bubley, and Marcel Reichert.

(Edited by WB 4/4/2017)

Lutjanus campechanus - Red Snapper (Mules, Sow Snapper, Spot Snapper (small))

Red Snapper is a large, fast-growing, early maturing, and long-lived member of the family Lutjanidae. It has a pinkish-red color over its entire body, with whitish color below. Red Snapper has red eyes, long triangular snout, and a sharply pointed anal fin. Red Snapper less than 1 foot in length have a large dark spot on the upper sides, below the anterior soft dorsal rays, that disappears as it gets larger.

Red Snapper is distributed in warm-temperate waters throughout the Gulf of Mexico south to the Yucatan Peninsula and in United States Atlantic waters north to North Carolina. Adult Red Snapper are associated with structured habitats such as coral reefs, wrecks, gas and oil platforms, rocky outcroppings, and live-bottom habitats in relatively shallow waters (typically <75 m) in the Atlantic waters off the SE US. Juveniles occur in shallow waters over sandy or muddy bottom.

Red Snapper reach a maximum length of about 40 inches and maximum reported age over 50 years. They are gonochoristic and spawn May through October in the Atlantic, with a peak June through September. They begin to mature under 2 years of age for both sexes. Overall sex ratio appears to vary by age and size, with more females present at older ages and larger sizes.

Red Snapper has been under intense commercial and recreational fishing for decades with management-related harvest prohibitions or near-prohibitions implemented in 2010. In the SE, Red Snapper is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits, size and bag limits, trip limits, and gear restrictions when the fishery is open. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishers, with hook and line gear being the most commonly used.

.


Vermilion Snapper

Editors: Marcel Reichert and Walter Bubley.

(Edited by WB 4/5/2017; partially reviewed by REM 5/20/17)

Rhomboplites aurorubens - Vermilion Snapper (Beeline Snapper, Mingo Snapper)

The Vermilion Snapper is a relatively small, warm-temperate and tropical lutjanid occurring from North Carolina and Bermuda, throughout the West Indies and Gulf of Mexico, and south to southeastern Brazil. They have streamlined bodies which are pale to silver white below and vermilion/reddish above. Narrow yellow-gold streaks, some horizontal and others oblique, occur below the lateral line. The dorsal fin is rosy colored with a yellow margin. The caudal fin is red , but has a faint black margin. Large canine teeth are absent and the orientation of the mouth and eye give it the appearance of looking upward. The vermilion snapper is the only Western Atlantic snapper with 12 dorsal-fin spines (other species usually have 10 spines and rarely have 9 or 11 spines).

 Off the Atlantic waters of the SE US, Vermilion Snapper is a schooling fish that is commonly associated with patches of sponge/coral habitat, rocky outcrops, and rocky ledges on the continental shelf and shelf-break (85-180 ft) as well as the upper-slope reef habitats (~330 ft).  Young fish occur in shallower waters than the adults (typically < 85 ft), where they also form large schools.They feed on fishes, shrimps, crabs, polychaetes, other benthic invertebrates, cephalopods and planktonic organisms.

Vermilion Snapper reach maximum lengths of 24 inches and maximum ages greater than 20 years old. They are gonochoristic and spawn off the USSEA from April to September, with a peak between June and August. They mature at a young age (nearly all are mature at 1 year old) and small size (beginning around 6 inches in length). There is also a skewed sex ratio, with more females present than males.

This species has been targeted by commercial and recreational fishers for decades.  In the SE, Vermilion Snapper is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits, size and bag limits, trip limits, and gear restrictions. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishers, with hook and line gear being the most commonly used.

                


Queen Snapper

Editor(s):  Fritz Rohde and Luiz Barbieri

(Text from original FEP – Not edited yet)

The queen snapper, Etelis oculatus, occurs in the Western Atlantic, ranging from Bermuda and North Carolina to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. It is commonly found near oceanic islands, and is particularly abundant in the Bahamas and the Antilles. This species is bathydemersal species (Allen 1985) and moves offshore to deepwater reefs and rocky ledges as it grows and matures (SAFMC 1999). Allen (1985) indicated it is primarily found over rocky bottom habitat, in depths of 100 to 450 m (327 to 1,475 ft). Thompson and Munro (1974a) report it was caught on mud slopes of the south Jamaica shelf at a depth of 460 m (1,508 ft). Maximum reported size is 100 cm TL (39 inches, male). Maximum reported weight is 5,300 g (11.7 lbs) (Allen 1985). Size at maturity and age at first maturity are estimated as 53.6 cm TL (21 inches) and 1 year, respectively. Spawning is reported to occur during April and May off St. Lucia (Murray et al. 1998). Approximate life span is 4.7 years; natural mortality rate, 0.76 (Froese and Pauly 2003). Primary prey items include small fishes and squids (Allen 1985).


Yellowtail Snapper

Editor:  Luiz Barbieri

(Text from original FEP – Not edited yet)

Yellowtail snapper, Ocyurus chrysurus, occurs in the Western Atlantic, ranging from Massachusetts to southeastern Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, but is most common in the Bahamas, off south Florida, and throughout the Caribbean. Most U.S. landings are from the Florida Keys and southeastern Florida. The yellowtail snapper inhabits waters as deep as 180 m (590 ft), and usually is found well above the bottom (Allen 1985). Muller et al. (2003) state that adults typically inhabit sandy areas near offshore reefs at depths ranging from 10 to 70 m (33-230 ft). Thompson and Munro (1974a) indicate that this species is most abundant at depths of 20-40 m (66-131 ft) near the edges of shelves and banks off Jamaica. Juveniles are usually found over back reefs and seagrass beds (Thompson and Munro 1974a; Muller et al. 2003). Yellowtail snapper exhibits schooling behavior (Thompson and Munro 1974a).

Maximum reported size is 86.3 cm (34.2 in) TL (male) and 4.1 kg (9.1 lbs) (Allen 1985). Maximum age is 17 years (Manooch and Drennon 1987). M is estimated at 0.20 with a range of 0.15-0.25 (Muller et al. 2003). There is a truncation in the size and age structure of yellowtail snapper near human population centers.

Yellowtail snapper have separate sexes throughout their lifetime (i.e., they are gonochoristic). Figuerola et al. (1997) estimated size at 50% maturity as 22.4 cm (8.9 in) FL (males) and 24.8 cm (9.8 in) FL (females), based on fishery independent and dependent data collected off Puerto Rico.

Spawning occurs over a protracted period and peaks at different times in different areas. In southeast Florida, spawning occurs during spring and summer, while it may occur year-round in the Bahamas and Caribbean (Grimes 1987). Figuerola et al. (1997) reported that, in the U.S. Caribbean, spawning occurs during February to October, with a peak from April to July. Erdman (1976) reported that 80% of adult yellowtail snapper captured off San Juan spawn during March through May. Spawning occurs in offshore waters (Figuerola et al. 1997; Thompson and Munro 1974a) and during the new moon (Figuerola et al. 1997). Large spawning aggregations are reported to occur seasonally off Cuba, the Turks and Caicos, and USVI. A large spawning aggregation occurs during May-July at Riley‘s Hump near the Dry Tortugas off Key West, Florida (Muller et al. 2003).

Yellowtail snapper are nocturnal predators. Juveniles feed primarily on plankton (Allen 1985; Thompson and Munro 1974a). Adults eat a combination of planktonic (Allen 1985), pelagic (Thompson and Munro 1974a), and benthic organisms, including fishes, crustaceans, worms, gastropods, and cephalopods (Allen 1985). Bortone and Williams (1986) stated that both juveniles and adults feed on fish, shrimp, and crabs.


Gray Snapper

Editors: Ted Switzer and Ed Matheson  

(Text from original FEP – edited by REM 5/20/17)

Lutjanus griseus -  Gray Snapper or Mangrove Snapper

Gray snapper are among the species of Western Atlantic snappers with no dark spot below the soft dorsal fin, at any size, and a rounded anal fin. They are separated from the similar cubera snapper by having upper canines distinctly larger than lower and by having an anchor-shaped tooth patch on the roof of the mouth. Color is quite variable, ranging from reddish to olive to greyish. Young often have a dark diagonal oblique bar from tip of snout through eye and may have a blue line below eye.

Gray snapper occur in the Western Atlantic from Massachusetts to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. This species occupies a variety of habitats during its life history. It occurs at depths of 5-180 m (16-591 ft), in coral reefs, rocky areas, estuaries, mangrove areas, and in the lower reaches of rivers (especially the young). Gray snapper often forms large aggregations.

Maximum reported size is 89.0 cm (35.2 in) TL (male) and 20.0 kg (44.4 lbs), and maximum reported age is 24 years. M is estimated at 0.30.

Gray snapper are gonochorists. Length and age at first maturity is estimated as 23.0 cm (9.1 in) FL and 2 years for females and 22.0 cm (8.7 in) for males. Spawning occurs during summer near the time of the full moon. This species spawns from late May to early September in the Florida Keys. In the northeastern Caribbean, individuals in spawning condition have been observed in May, August, and September. Off Cuba, gray snapper spawn during June through September with a peak in July.

The gray snapper feeds mainly at night on small fishes, shrimps, crabs, gastropods, cephalopods, and some planktonic items. In the Loxahatchee River estuary, Florida, gray snapper primarily consume various species of crabs, shrimp, and fish.

[management]

Most gray snapper landed in the U.S. South Atlantic are caught in Florida.

Due to the use of various habitats during their life history, gray snapper are vulnerable to habitat degradation from tidal rivers to the continental shelf, with the loss of mangrove habitat being of special concern.


Mutton Snapper

Editors: Ted Switzer and Ed Matheson  

(Text from original FEP – partially edited by REM 5/20/17)

Lutjanus analis -  Mutton Snapper

Mutton snapper are among the snappers in the Western Atlantic with a dark spot under the soft dorsal fin and a pointed anal fin, although the lateral spot is progressively smaller in larger fish. Among this group of snappers the mutton is the only one with a roughly v-shaped patch of teeth in the front of the roof of the mouth (as opposed to an anchor-shaped patch with a posterior extension). The iris of the eye is red, and lateral coloration varies from uniform to barred with shades of red, olive, and whitish. Head with blue lines and spots.

Mutton snapper, Lutjanus analis, are found in the Western Atlantic from Massachusetts to southeastern Brazil, including the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. It is most abundant around the Antilles, the Bahamas, and off southern Florida. Mutton snapper can be found in both brackish and marine waters at depths of 25-95 m (82-312 ft). This species is captured on mud slopes off the southeast coast of Jamaica at depths of 100-120 m (328-656 ft) (Thompson and Munro 1974a). Juveniles generally occur closer to shore, over sandy, vegetated (usually Thalassia) bottom habitats, while large adults are commonly found offshore among rocks and coral habitat.

Allen (1985), reported a maximum size of 94.0 cm (37.2 in) TL (male) and 15.6 kg (34.6 lbs). The largest male and female observed in a study conducted in Puerto Rico between February 2000 and May 2001 measured 70.0 cm (27.8 in) FL and 69 cm (27.3 in) FL, respectively (Figuerola et al. 1997). Burton (2002) reported a maximum age of 29 years for mutton snapper. M is estimated as 0.21 (Ault et al. 1998).

Mutton snapper are gonochorists (separate sexes). Size at 50% maturity is 33.0 cm (13.1 in) FL and 41.4 cm (16.4 in) FL for males and females, respectively, off Puerto Rico (Figuerola and Torrez Ruiz 2001). All males and females are probably mature by 43.1 cm (17.1 in) FL and 45.0 cm (17.8 in) FL, respectively. Spawning occurs in aggregations (Figuerola et al. 1997). Individuals have been observed in spawning condition in the U.S. Caribbean from February through July (Erdman 1976). Some spawning occurs during February to June off Puerto Rico, but spawning peaks during the week following the full moon in April and May. Spawning aggregations are known to occur north of St. Thomas, USVI, and south of St. Croix, USVI, in March, April, and May (Rielinger 1999). This species feeds on fishes, shrimps, crabs, cephalopods, and gastropods (Allen 1985).


Lane Snapper

Editors: Ted Switzer and Ed Matheson  

(Text from original FEP – partially edited by REM 5/20/17)

Lutjanus synagris -  Lane Snapper

The lane snapper is one of two species of snappers in the Western Atlantic with a large dark spot below the soft dorsal fin (usually) and a rounded anal fin. Most of the lateral spot is above the lateral line. In addition to the lateral spot, this species can usually be easily identified by the yellow lateral stripes below the lateral line and diagonal yellow stripes above the lateral line.

Lane snapper, Lutjanus synagris, occur in the Western Atlantic, ranging from North Carolina and Bermuda to southeastern Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. It is most common near the Antilles, on the Campeche Bank, off Panama, and off the northern coast of South America. This species occurs over all bottom types, but is usually encountered near coral reefs and on vegetated sandy areas, in turbid as well as clear water, at depths of 10-400 m (33-1,311 ft) (Allen 1985). Larvae and juveniles can be found in sea grass beds and bays in the eastern Gulf of Mexico (Froese and Pauly 2003).

Maximum reported size is 60.0 cm (23.8 in) TL (male) and 3.5 kg (7.8 lbs) (Allen 1985). The world record is 8.3 lbs from Mississippi (Andy Strelcheck, Pers. Com.). Luckhurst et al. (2000) a maximum age of 19 years for lane snapper caught off Bermuda. In the northern Gulf of Mexico, the maximum reported age of lane snapper is 17 years (Johnson et al. 1995). Estimates of M ranged from 0.11 to 0.24 (Johnson et al. 1995).

Figuerola et al. (1997) estimated size at 50% maturity as 14.7 cm (5.8 in) FL (males) and 18.5 cm (7.3 in) FL (females) in the U.S. Caribbean. Mean size at maturity of lane snapper collected off Jamaica was 26.8 cm (10.6 in) and 22.1 cm (8.8 in) in males and females respectively. Lane snapper first become sexually mature at age 1 (Luckhurst et al. 2000).

This fish often forms large aggregations, especially during the spawning season (Allen 1985). Reproduction occurs over a protracted period, with some degree of reproductive activity occurring all year (Figuerola et al. 1997). Most spawning occurs from March to September in the U.S. Caribbean (Erdman 1976; Figuerola et al. 1997) with peak spawning during April to July. Spawning is believed to peak in June and July around the full moon off Jamaica (Figuerola et al. 1997). This species feeds at night on small fishes, benthic crabs, shrimps, worms, gastropods, and cephalopods (Allen 1985).


Cubera Snapper

Editors: Grant Gilmore and Fritz Rohde

(Text from original FEP – Not edited yet)

Cubera snapper, Lutjanus cyanopterus, occur in the Western Atlantic from Nova Scotia and Bermuda to Brazil. It also occurs throughout the Bahamas and Caribbean, including Antilles. It is rare north of Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico (Froese and Pauly 2003). Adults are found mainly around ledges over rocky bottoms or around reefs, at depths of 18-55 m (59-180 ft). Juveniles are reef-associated but also occur in brackish marine waters, and sometimes inhabit mangrove areas. Maximum reported sizes for cubera snapper are 160.0 cm (63.4 in) TL (male/unsexed) and 57.0 kg (126.5 lbs) (Froese and Pauly 2003). Appeldoorn et al. (1987) estimated the maximum length as 102.0 cm (40.4 in) TL. Cubera snapper spawn during July-August off Cuba (García-Cagide et al. 1994). Cubera snapper feed on fishes, crabs, and shrimp (Froese and Pauly 2003).



Silk Snapper

Editors: Fritz Rohde and Walter Bubley

(Edited by WB 4/5/2017)

Lutjanus vivanus - Silk Snapper (Silky Snapper or Yellow-Eyed Snapper)

Silk snapper is a warm-temperate and tropical species that occurs in the Western Atlantic, from North Carolina to Brazil, including the Bahamas and the northern Gulf of Mexico.  The body of the Silk Snapper is red overall, darker above and lighter below with fine wavy longitudinal yellow lines. The caudal fin has a dusky margin. The yellow iris identifies the Silk Snapper from its close relatives, the Red Snapper and the Blackfin Snapper, both of which possess a red iris.

The Silk Snapper is commonly found along rocky ledges, in depths of 300-800 ft. Adults are generally found further offshore than juveniles and usually ascend to shallow water at night. However, juveniles are sometimes observed on deep reefs. Silk snapper form moving aggregations of similar-sized individuals. They eat primarily fishes, shrimps, crabs, gastropods, cephalopods, tunicates, and some pelagic items, including urochordates.

Maximum reported size is 33 inches and 18.3 lb. Silk Snappers are gonochorists that begin maturing at 9 to 11 inches in length for females and males, respectively, which coincides with 5-6 years of age. Spawning occurs in June, July, and August in waters off North and South Carolina.

In the Atlantic waters off the SE US, Silk Snapper is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits (other snapper complex), size and bag limits (aggregate snapper bag limit), and gear restrictions. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishers, with hook and line gear being the most commonly used.

 


Mahogany Snapper

Editors: Jack McGovern

(Edited by JCM 5/1/2017, references removed)

Lutjanus mahogoni - Mahogany Snapper occur in the Western Atlantic from North Carolina to Venezuela, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.  Mahogany Snapper are grayish-olive in coloration  with a reddish tinge; conspicuous dark spot, about the size of the eye, below the soft dorsal fin, 1/4 to 1/2 of it below the lateral line.  The large eye and caudal fin are bright red and the lower margin of the preopercle has prominent spur with strong and sharp serrations.

This species is common in the Caribbean but is rare in US waters.  The mahogany snapper occurs in nearshore water as deep as 100 m (328 ft).  It is usually found in clear, shallow water over rocky bottoms near coral reefs but occurs less frequently in sandy areas or seagrass.  It often forms large aggregations during the day.   They eat This fish feeds at night mainly on small fish, shrimps, crabs, and cephalopods.

Maximum reported size is 48.0 cm (19.0 in) TL (male) and 1.3 kg (2.9 lbs).  Ripe females have been observed during August in the northeastern Caribbean.  Effective June 22, 2016, mahogany snapper have been removed from the snapper grouper management complex and federal regulations are no longer in effect for this species.


Black snapper

Editors: Jeff Buckel (ask Ben Hartig to review)

Black snapper, Apsilus dentatus, occur in the Western Central Atlantic, off the Florida Keys, and in the western Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. A demersal species, the black snapper is primarily found over rocky bottom habitat, although juveniles are sometimes found near the surface (Allen 1985 in Froese and Pauly 2003). It moves offshore to deep-water reefs and rocky ledges as it matures (SAFMC 1999). Allen (1985) reported the depth range as 100-300 m (328- 984 ft). Off Jamaica, it is most abundant at depths of 60-100 m (197-328 ft) (Thompson and Munro 1974a).

Maximum reported size is 65.0 cm (25.7 in) TL (male) and 3.2 kg (7.1 lbs) (Allen 1985). Observed maximum fork lengths are 56.0 cm (22.2 in) FL and 54.0 cm (21.4 in) FL for males and females, respectively (Thompson and Munro 1974a).

Black snapper have separate sexes throughout their lifetime. Size and age at maturity estimated in Froese and Pauly (2003) is 34.9 cm (13.8 in) TL and 1 year, respectively. Estimated mean size at maturity for fish collected off Jamaica is 43.0-45.0 cm (17.0-17.8 in) FL and 39.0-41.0 (15.4-16.2 in) cm FL for males and females, respectively (Thompson and Munro 1974a). Off Cuba the mean size at maturity is 44.0 cm (17.4 in) FL for males and 40.0 cm (15.8 in) FL for females (García-Cagide et al. 1994).

In the northeastern Caribbean, individuals in spawning condition have been observed from February through April and in September (Erdman 1976). Off Jamaica, the greatest proportions of ripe fishes were found from January to April and from September to November (Thompson and Munro 1974a).

Large catches occasionally obtained over a short period suggest a schooling habit for this species (Thompson and Munro 1974a). Prey includes fishes and benthic organisms, including cephalopods, tunicates (Allen 1985), and crustaceans (Thompson and Munro 1974a).

Blackfin Snapper

(Editors: Fritz/Wally )

(Edited by WB 4/5/2017)

Lutjanus buccanella - Blackfin Snapper

Blackfin Snapper is a warm-temperate and tropical species that occur in the Western Atlantic, generally ranging from North Carolina, south throughout the Bahamas, and the northern Gulf of Mexico, to southeast Brazil. Its color is generally red, with yellowish caudal, anal, and pelvic fins. Blackfin Snapper also have a distinctive and prominent dark comma-shaped blotch at the base of the pectoral fins, which gives the fish its common name, and differentiates it from similar species. It also has a rounded anal fin and the absence of the black spot on side underneath dorsal fin present in many other juvenile and/or adult snappers.

This is a demersal species in which adults occur in deep waters over sandy or rocky bottoms, and near drop-offs and ledges, ranging from 165-300 ft in depth. Juveniles occur in shallower waters, often associated with reefs in depths of 115-164 ft.

Blackfin Snapper can reach sizes of 30 inches and excess of 30 lbs. Blackfin snapper is a gonochorist that begins maturing around 9 inches in length for both sexes. There is little information regarding spawning off the Atlantic coast of the SE US, but in the Caribbean, Blackfin Snapper spawn year round, with peaks in April and September. Fishes are the primary prey item of Blackfin Snapper.

In the Atlantic waters off the SE US, Blackfin Snapper is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits (other snapper complex), size and bag limits (aggregate snapper bag limit), and gear restrictions. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishers, with hook and line gear being the most commonly used.

Grunts

White Grunt

Editors: Marcel Reichert and Wally Bubley (ask Byron White and Jennifer Potts to review)

(Edited by WB 4/5/2017)

Haemulon plumieri- White Grunt (Ruby Red Lips, Red Mouth Grunt, or Common Grunt)

The White Grunt is a demersal reef fish found in warm-temperate and tropical waters of the western Atlantic from Virginia to Brazil. It has a disjunct distribution off the Atlantic waters off the SE US, as it is typically absent from Cape Romain, SC, to Cape Canaveral, FL. The White Grunt is silver-gray, with numerous blue and yellow horizontal stripes on the body and head with a white underbelly. Mouth is large and bright orange. The lining of the body cavity, or peritoneum, is black.

White Grunt is typically associated with live-bottom and rocky outcrop habitats where it can be found in dense aggregations during the day at depths from 10 - 130 ft. Juveniles are common in seagrass beds. They are known to feed on crustaceans, small mollusks, and small fishes.  

White Grunt reach a maximum reported size of 25 inches, 8 lbs, and live over 20 years of age. White Grunt is a gonochoristic species that begins maturing before 2 years of age and around 6 inches in length. It has a spawning season from May to September with a peak in April – June.

In the SE, recreational fishermen are the primary source of White Grunt landings and this species managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits, size and bag limits, trip limits, and gear restrictions.

Margate

Editor: Luiz Barbieri

(Text from original FEP – Not edited yet)

Margate, Haemulon album, occurs in the Western Atlantic from the Florida Keys to Brazil, including the Caribbean Sea. Margate are found in pairs or larger schools, over seagrass beds, sand flats, coral reefs, and wrecks in depths of 20-60 m (66-197 ft). Maximum reported size is 79.0 cm (31.3 in) TL (male) and 7.1 kg (2.1 lbs) (Cervigón 1993). Estimated natural mortality rate is 0.37 (Ault et al. 1998). García-Cagide et al. (1994) indicate that the mean size at maturity off Jamaica is 24.0 cm (9.5 in) FL. Peak spawning occurs during January and April off Jamaica, with a minor peak in September-November. In the northeastern Caribbean, individuals in spawning condition have been observed in February, March, April, and September (Erdman 1976). Margate off Cuba are in spawning condition throughout the year with a peak during March and April (García-Cagide et al. 1994). This fish feeds on benthic invertebrates, and has been observed to eat subsurface invertebrates such as peanut worms and heart urchins (Cervigón 1993).


Tomtate

Editors: Marcel Reichert and Wally Bubley (ask Paulette Mikell and Charlie Barans to review)

(Edited by WB 4/5/2017)

Haemulon aurolineatum - Tomtate (Red Mouth, Blood Mouth)

The Tomtate occur in the Western Atlantic from Massachusetts to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. It is silver white all over with a yellow-brown stripe running the length of the body and ending as a black blotch at the base of the caudal fin. This spot is also evident in most juvenile grunts, and may be lost by older fish. The inside of its mouth is bright red.

Tomtate inhabits seagrass beds, sand flats, patch reefs, rocky outcrops, and even muddy bottom habitat, to depths of 180 ft. They swim in schools and feed on small crustaceans, mollusks, other benthic invertebrates, plankton, and algae.

Along the Atlantic waters off the SE US, maximum reported length of Tomtate is 10 inches fork length and up to 1 lb, which is one of the smallest grunt species. It has a maximum reported age of 17 years. They are a gonochorist species with nearly all females being mature by 6 inches in length and two years old. Along the southeastern United States, female Tomtate are in spawning condition from March through July, with peak spawning occurring in April through June.

Tomtate are not highly regarded by fishermen due to their size. However, in the Atlantic waters off the SE US, Tomtate is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP and is subject to annual catch limits (Grunt complex), and gear restrictions, but no size, bag limits, or trip limits.



Sailor’s Choice

Editor: George Sedberry

(Text from original FEP – Not edited yet)

The Sailor‘s choice, Haemulon parra, is a reef-associated species that occurs in the Western Atlantic including the Bahamas, Florida, northern Gulf of Mexico, throughout the Caribbean Sea, and Central and South American coasts (Froese and Pauly 2003). They inhabit shallow coastal reefs, with young occurring on seagrass beds at depths of 3-30 m (10-98 ft). Adults occur in schools in relatively open areas and the species is rare around oceanic islands. It attains a maximum size of 41.2 cm (16.3 in) TL. Sailor‘s choice feeds on annelids, benthic crustaceans, and echinoderms (Sierra et al. 1994).


Cotton Wick

Editor: Luiz Barbieri

(Text from original FEP – Not edited yet)

Cottonwick, Haemulon melanurum, is found in the Western Atlantic from Bermuda, southeastern Florida, and the Bahamas to Brazil. It is also reported from Yucatan, Mexico (Froese and Pauly 2003). This reef-associated species occurs at depths ranging from 3-50 m (10-164 ft). Maximum reported size is 33.0 cm (13.1 in) TL (male/unsexed) and 0.55 kg (1.2 lbs). The length at 50% maturity is 19.0 cm (7.5 in) FL off Jamaica (Billings and Munro 1974). Cottonwick feeds on benthic crustaceans and other benthic invertebrates.


Wrasses

Hogfish

Editors: Luiz Barbieri and Jack McGovern (ask David Wyanski and Scott VanSant to review)

(Edited JCM 5/1/2017, references removed)

Lachnolaimus maximus - Hogfish

Hogfish, Lachnolaimus maximus, occur in the Western Atlantic from Nova Scotia (Canada) to northern South America, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, although it is most commonly found in the Caribbean.  Hogfish are primarily found in warm subtropical and tropical waters.  Genetic analysis indicates there at three stock in U.S. waters, which include the Gulf of Mexico, Florida/Florida Keys, and Carolinas.  In U.S. waters, hogfish are most commonly found in the Florida Keys.  The hogfish has a long, pig-like snout, and protrusible jaws with thick lips and strong canine teeth.  The first three spines of the dorsal fin, as well as the upper and lower tips of the caudal fin, are extended into long filaments.  Color is highly variable and changes with size.  The scales on the back are often edged in yellow, and a dark spot is at the rear base of the dorsal fin.  This spot disappears with age.  Males possess a dark oblique band that covers the top portion of the head, extending to the tip of the snout.  Juveniles are much lighter in color overall, usually of a pink or gray with white mottling along the sides.

Hogfish are usually found in loose aggregations around hard bottom areas, such as coral reefs, rocky ledges and wrecks.  They occur at depths of 3-30 m (10-98 ft) over open bottom or coral reef; however, hogfish have occasionally been captured by the MARMAP program at depths ranging from 23 to 53 m (75 to 174 ft) and have been observed during submersible dives off South Carolina at depths of 52 m (171 ft).

Maximum reported size is 91.0 cm (36.0 in) TL (male) and 10.0 kg (22.2 lbs).  Maximum reported age in the eastern Gulf of Mexico is 23 years and 13 years in the Florida Keys.  Hogfish are protogynous.  Spawning aggregations have been documented to occur in water deeper than 16 m (52 ft) off La Parguera, Puerto Rico from December through April.  It is reported that hogfish spawn off Cuba during May through July.  Peak spawning of hogfish off Puerto Rico is during December through April.  Off the Florida Keys, spawning occurs from September to April with a February and March peak (Appendix 4).  Hogfish primarily eat mollusks, but also feed on crabs and sea urchins.

Hogfish are managed by the South Atlantic Council in South Atlantic waters.  They are primarily take by spear and hook and line gear.


Spade Fishes

Spade Fish

Editor:  George Sedberry (ask Steve Arnott to review)

(Text from original FEP – Not edited yet)

The Atlantic spadefish, Chaetodipterus faber, occurs in the Western Atlantic, from Massachusetts to southeastern Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean (Robins and Ray 1986, Carpenter 2002). It has also been introduced to waters surrounding Bermuda (Hayse 1987). Atlantic spadefish is found in depths of 3-35 m (10-115 ft), and is abundant in shallow coastal waters, from mangroves and sandy beaches, to wrecks and harbors. Juveniles are common in estuaries. Adults often occur in large schools of up to 500 individuals (Carpenter 2002). Maximum reported size is 100 cm (39 in) TL (Carpenter 2002). Hayse (1987) reported that Atlantic spadefish live for at least 8 years off South Carolina.

Atlantic spadefish are gonochorists (Hayse 1987). Histological examination of gonads indicates that 64% of age 0 males are sexually mature and all males age 1 and older are mature. All age 0 females are immature, while all females age 1 and older are mature (Hayse 1987). Atlantic spadefish are in spawning condition off South Carolina during May-September with peak spawning occurring during May (Hayse 1987). In the northeastern Caribbean, individuals in spawning condition have been observed in May and September (Erdman 1976).


Wreckfishes

Wreckfish

Editors: George Sedberry, Marcel Reichert, and Walter Bubley (ask Adam Lytton to review)

(Edited by MR 2-13-2017, references removed) (Edited by WB 4/5/2017)

Polyprion americanus - Wreckfish

 

Wreckfish are a commercially-important, deepwater, demersal fish, occurring on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. They are bluish grey on the back and paler with a silvery sheen on the belly. Their fins are blackish brown. Juveniles have black blotches on their head and body. Wreckfish have a relatively big head with a big mouth and a rough bony ridge across the upper part of the gill cover. Juveniles have black blotches on their head and body.

Wreckfish can be found in the eastern Atlantic from Norway to South Africa, including the Mediterranean, Canary Islands, Azores, Bermuda, and Madeira, and in the western Atlantic from Grand Banks, Newfoundland, to La Plata River, Argentina. Adult Wreckfish are found from depths of 130 - 2,625 ft, but most occur in waters deeper than 1,000 ft, with a maximum reported depth of 3,284 ft. At these depths, adult Wreckfish concentrate around steep, rocky bottoms and deep coral reefs, but they can be found in lower concentrations along flat, hard bottom. Juveniles up to 24 inches in length are pelagic and are widely dispersed and are common in the surface waters of the eastern North Atlantic, but rare in the western North Atlantic. It mostly feeds on fishes and squids.

Wreckfish reach a maximum age of 80 years and maximum size of 6 feet. Juvenile pelagic phases grow quickly, but the adults are slow-growing. Females grow larger than males. Wreckfish are gonochorists that mature at age 7 years and 31 inches in length. Spawning has been documented off of South Carolina and Georgia, but may be more widespread. Spawning season is December to April.

In the SE, Wreckfish is managed by the SAFMC under the Snapper/Grouper FMP. Until the mid-1980s, Wreckfish were unexploited commercially in the western North Atlantic.  The resource was discovered by pelagic longliners along the Charleston Bump on coral pinnacles. Currently, they are mostly caught by commercial fishers in deep waters (>1,000ft) using a specialized modified snapper reel. It is managed under an individual transferable quota system, so there are no size or trip limit requirements, though there are gear and Annual Catch Limit restrictions.

Additional info for potential inclusion:

Large, oblong, moderately compressed, fairly deep-bodied, and grouper-like. Head scaly and spiny between the eyes and on nape, especially rough in young (hence the name Polyprion); snout smooth; mouth terminal, lower jaw projecting strongly; jaw teeth small, no canines; opercle (“cheek”) with a distinctive horizontal ridge ending in a short spine, a smaller spine above, but none below the principal spine. Dorsal fin with 11 or 12 strong spines and 11 or 12 soft rays, the 2 parts of the fin moderately notched; caudal fin truncate (adults) or rounded (juveniles); anal fin with 3 strong spines and 9 or 10 soft rays. Scales small and rough.  Color: dark slate grey to brownish above, lighter below; pelagic juveniles mottled light and dark grey.

Larger juveniles and adults demersal on deep rocky bottoms (50 to 800 m). Because of habitat preference (deep rocky slopes), they are only locally abundant. Caught mainly with vertical lines in the U.S. Excellent foodfish, usually marketed fresh. Commercially abundant off the southeastern USA; historically fished in Bermuda, where now considered commercially extinct. Minor recreational use in the Bahamas and south Florida.  

Coastal Migratory Pelagics

King Mackerel

Editor(s): Ask Ben Hartig and Sue Gerhart

Spanish Mackerel

Editor(s): Ask Sue Gerhart


Cobia

Editors: Marcel Reichert and Pat Geer (ask Mike Denson to review)

The cobia, Rachycentron canadum, is a large, fast growing pelagic member of the family Rachycentridae. Cobia are distributed worldwide in tropical and subtropical waters, except for the eastern Pacific (Herre 1953, Robins and Ray 1986, Shaffer and Nakamura 1989). In the western Atlantic cobia occur from Nova Scotia, south to Argentina, including the Caribbean Sea. Cobia prefer water temperatures between 68°- 86°F and are abundant in the warm coastal waters of the U.S. from the Chesapeake Bay south and throughout the Gulf of Mexico (Williams 2001). Cobia are often found in harbors, nearshore around wrecks and reefs and offshore along the continental shelf. Spawning occurs May through August in coastal waters of the southeastern U.S. and in the Gulf of Mexico during April through September. Spawning frequency is approximately once every 4-12 days and can occur as many as 15-36 times during the season (Brown-Peterson et al. 2001). Inshore spawning of Cobia has been documented in some regions along the southeastern U.S. (Lefebvre 2009). Cobia grow quickly and have a moderately long life span. Maximum ages observed for cobia the Gulf of Mexico were 9 and 11 years for males and females respectively (Franks et al. 1999) while off the North Carolina coast maximum ages were 14 and 13 years (Smith 1995). Most females reach sexual maturity at 3 years of age and most males at 2 years (Brown-Peterson et al. 2001, Thompson et al. 1991, Lotz et al. 1996, Richards 1967, Smith 1995, Kalinowsky et al. 2016). During autumn and winter months, cobia from both the Gulf and Atlantic stocks migrate south and overwinter in the warmer coastal waters off south Florida (J. Franks, personal communication). Mixing of the two stocks has been documented through tagging and genetic studies (Franks et al. 1991, Howse et al. 1992, Hrincevich 1993). Cobia are opportunistic feeders, their diet includes crustaceans, cephalopods, and small fishes (Arendt et al. 2001, Franks et al. 1996, and Meyer and Franks 1996). They have been seen cruising shallow coastal waters in schools of up to 100 fish, hunting for food. Additionally, cobia are known to follow larger sharks, rays, and turtles, taking advantage of prey items lost during their feeding activity.

(from the FL Mus. of Natural History)

The cobia, Rachycentron canadum, is a member of the family Rachycentridae. It is managed under the Coastal Migratory Pelagics FMU because of its migratory behavior. The cobia is distributed worldwide in tropical, subtropical and warm-temperate waters. In the western Atlantic Ocean this pelagic fish occurs from Nova Scotia (Canada), south to Argentina, including the Caribbean Sea. It is abundant in warm waters off the coast of the U.S. from the Chesapeake Bay south and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Cobia prefer water temperatures between 68°-86°F. Seeking shelter in harbors and around wrecks and reefs, the cobia is often found off south Florida and the Florida Keys. As a pelagic fish, cobia are found over the continental shelf as well as around offshore reefs. It prefers to reside near any structure that interrupts the open water such as pilings, buoys, platforms, anchored boats, and flotsam. The cobia is also found inshore inhabiting bays, inlets, and mangroves. Remoras are often seen swimming with cobia.

The body is dark brown to silver, paler on the sides and grayish white to silvery below, with two narrow dark bands extending from the snout to base of caudal fin. These dark bands are bordered above and below by paler bands. Young cobia have pronounced dark lateral bands, which tend to become obscured in the adult fish. Most fins are deep brown, with gray markings on the anal and pelvic fins. The body is elongate and torpedo-shaped with a long, depressed head. The eyes are small and the snout is broad. The lower jaw projects past the upper jaw. The skin looks smooth with very small embedded scales.

Cobia

(from the FL Mus. of Nat. Hist.)

Cobia form large aggregations, spawning during daylight hours between June and August in the Atlantic Ocean near the Chesapeake Bay, off North Carolina in May and June, and in the Gulf of Mexico during April through September. Spawning frequency is once every 9-12 days, spawning 15-20 times during the season. During spawning, cobia undergo changes in body coloration from brown to a light horizontal-striped pattern, releasing eggs and sperm into offshore open water. Cobia have also been observed to spawn in estuaries and shallow bays with the young heading offshore soon after hatching. Cobia eggs are spherical, averaging 1.24mm in diameter. Larvae are released approximately 24-36 hours after fertilization.

Development, growth and movement patterns

Cobia

(from the FL Mus. of Natural History)

Newly hatched larvae are 2.5 mm long and lack pigmentation. Five days after hatching, the mouth and eyes develop, allowing for active feeding. A pale yellow streak is visible, extending the length of the body. By day 30, the juvenile takes on the appearance of the adult cobia with two color bands running from the head to the posterior end of the juvenile.

Weighing up to a record 61 kg (135 lbs), cobia are more common at weights of up to 23 kg (50 lbs). They reach lengths of 50-120 cm (20-47 in), with a maximum of 200 cm (79 in). Cobia grow quickly and have a moderately long life span. Maximum ages observed for cobia in the Gulf of Mexico were 9 and 11 years for males and females respectively while off the North Carolina coast maximum ages were 14 and 13 years. Females reach sexual maturity at 3 years of age and males at 2 years in the Chesapeake Bay region.

During autumn and winter months, cobia migrate south and offshore to warmer waters. In early spring, migration occurs northward along the Atlantic coast.

Ecological relationships

Cobia

(from the FL Mus. of Nat. History)

Cobia are voracious feeders often engulfing their prey whole. Their diet includes crustaceans, cephalopods, and small fishes such as mullet, eels, jacks, snappers, pinfish, croakers, grunts, and herring. A favorite food is crabs, hence the common name of ―crabeater.‖ Cobia often cruise in packs of 3-100 fish, hunting for food during migrations in shallow water along the shoreline. Fishery Ecosystem Plan of the South Atlantic Region Volume II Habitat and Species 291

They are also known to feed in a manner similar to remoras. Cobia will follow rays, turtles, and sharks; sneaking in to scavenge whatever is left behind. Little is known about the feeding habits of larvae and juvenile cobia.

Not much is known regarding the predators of cobia, however they are presumably eaten by larger pelagic fishes. Dolphin (Coryphaena hippurus) have been reported to feed on small cobia.

The majority of parasites found on cobia are host-specific, suggesting this fish is not closely related to any other fishes. Parasites include a variety of trematodes, cestodes, nematodes, acanthocephalans, and copepods as well as barnacles. Thirty individuals of a single trematode species, Stephanostomum pseudoditrematis, were found in the intestine of a single cobia taken from the Indian Ocean. Infestations of the nematode Iheringascaris inquies are quite common in the stomachs of cobia.


Dolphin/Wahoo

Wahoo

Editor:  Jack McGovern

(Edited by JCM 5-1-17, references removed)

Acanthocybium solandri - Wahoo

The wahoo, Acanthocybium solandri, is an oceanic pelagic fish found worldwide in tropical and subtropical waters.  In the western Atlantic wahoo are found from New York through Colombia including Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean.  Wahoo are present throughout the Caribbean area, especially along the north coast of western Cuba where it is abundant during the winter.   There is pronounced seasonal variation in abundance. They are caught off North and South Carolina primarily during the spring and summer (April-June and July-September), off Florida‘s east coast year-round, off Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands year-round with peak catches between September and March, in the Gulf of Mexico year-round, in the eastern Caribbean between December and June, and in Bermuda between April and September.  The wahoo is a steel blue fish above and pale blue below.  The body is slender and the elongate jaws form a pointed beak.  It has a series of 25 to 30 irregular blackish-blue vertical bars on the sides.  A distinguishing characteristic is that protrusions on the gills (gill rakers) are absent.

Adult wahoo in the Atlantic are pelagic in nature and generally associated with Sargassum.  It is assumed that juveniles inhabit waters with temperatures of 22° to 30° C and are associated with Sargassum.  Juvenile wahoo are reported to travel in small schools.

Wahoo are short-lived fish (5 years) and grow rapidly, reaching lengths of up to 60.1 inches and weights of up to 45 pounds.  Both sexes are capable of reproducing during the first year of life, with males maturing at 34 inches and females at 40 inches.  Spawning in the United States takes place from June to August.  Wahoo are voracious predators that feed primarily on fishes such as mackerels, butterfishes, porcupine fishes, round herrings, scads, jacks, pompanos, and flying fishes.

Wahoo are managed by the South Atlantic Council Atlantic waters from the Florida Keys to New York.  They are primarily taken by trolling with hook and line gear.

Dolphin

Editors:  Jeff Buckel and Jack McGovern

(Edited by JCM 5-1-17, references removed)

Coryphaena hippurus - Dolphin

The dolphin, Coryphaena hippurus, is an oceanic pelagic fish found worldwide in tropical and subtropical waters.  The range for dolphin in the western Atlantic is from George‘s Bank, Nova Scotia to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  They are also found seasonally throughout the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, and they are generally restricted to waters warmer than 20°C.  The wahoo is a steel blue fish above and pale blue below.  There is pronounced seasonal variation in abundance.  Dolphin are caught off North and South Carolina from May through July.  Dolphin off Florida‘s East Coast are caught mainly between April and June.  February and March are the peak months off Puerto Rico‘s coast.  Dolphin are caught in the Gulf of Mexico from April to September with peak catches in May through August.  The dolphin has bright turquoise, green and yellow patterns, which fade almost immediately upon death. This species may be distinguished from the pompano dolphin by its 55-66 dorsal fin rays, and a very wide and square tooth patch on the tongue.  The body tapers sharply from head to tail; irregular blue or golden blotches scattered over sides; anterior profile of head on adult males is nearly vertical; head of females more sloping; the single dark dorsal fin extends from just behind the head to the tail; anal fin margin concave and extending to tail.

Dolphin are pelagic often associated with structure such as Sargassum.  Dolphin are fast growing, prolific and have a short life span (< 5 years).  Average fork lengths for males and females ranges from 34 to 55 inches.  Males grow faster and usually live longer than females.  Dolphin are batch spawners and have a protracted spawning season. The spawning season varies with latitude.  Dolphin collected in the Florida Current spawned from November through July, and those collected from the Gulf Stream near North Carolina were reproductively active during June and July.  Evidence for a continuous spawning season is attributed to the presence of several size classes of eggs found in the ovaries.  Size at first maturity ranges from 350 mm fork length (FL) (Florida) to 530 mm FL (Gulf of Mexico) for sexes combined.  Males first mature at a larger size than females.  Size at full maturity ranges from 550 mm FL (Florida) to 600 mm FL (Puerto Rico) for females.  

They eat a wide variety of fish species including: small oceanic pelagic species (e.g., flying fish, halfbeaks, man-o-war fish, Sargassum fish, and rough triggerfish); juveniles of large oceanic pelagic species (e.g., tunas, billfish, jacks, and dolphin); and pelagic larvae of neritic, benthic species (e.g., flying gurnards, triggerfish, pufferfish, and grunts).  They also eat invertebrates (e.g., cephalopods, mysids, and scyphozoans) suggesting that they are essentially non-selective, opportunistic foragers.  Dolphin are managed by the South Atlantic Council Atlantic waters from the Florida Keys to New York.  They are primarily taken with hook and line, and longline gear.

Shrimp

Editor: Pat Geer

The shrimp fishery in the South Atlantic includes six species: brown shrimp (Farfantepeneaus aztecus), pink shrimp (Farfantepenaeus duorarum), white shrimp (Litopenaeus setiferus), seabob shrimp (Xiphopenaeus kroyeri), rock shrimp (Sicyonia brevirostris), and royal red shrimp (Pleoticus robustus). The shrimp species of the southeastern U.S. occupy similar habitats with the greatest differences being in optimal substrate and salinity.

The penaeid shrimps (white, brown, and pink) can be identified by examining the groove along either side of the rostrum.  The grove extends less than half the length of the carapace in white shrimp, and the entire length in browns and pinks.  Pink shrimp can be discerned from browns by a light purplish-blue tail and usually a dark red spot on the side of the abdomen.  Both brown and pink shrimp have a groove on the top of the next to last tail segment:  this grove is nearly closed in pink shrimp.  Seabob shrimp can be identified by the lack of spines, or teeth, on the lower side of the rostrum which is long and recurved (Anderson, 1962). Males can be identified in all species by the presence of a petasma (male reproductive organ) clearly recognizable between the first set of walking legs on the abdomen.

 

Juvenile and adults penaeid are omnivores bottom feeders with food items consisting of polychaetes, amphipods, nematodes, caridean shrimps, mysids, copepods, isopods, amphipods, ostracods, mollusks, foraminiferans, chironomid larvae, and various types of organic debris.  Shrimp are preyed on by a wide variety of species at virtually all stages in their life history (Gunter 1957). Grass shrimp, killifishes, and blue crabs prey on young penaeid shrimp, and a wide variety of finfish are known to prey heavily on juvenile and adult penaeid shrimp (Minello and Zimmerman 1983).


White Shrimp

Editors:  Pat Geer

 

Litopenaeus setiferus – White Shrimp (gray shrimp, lake shrimp, green shrimp, green-tailed shrimp, blue tailed shrimp, rainbow shrimp, Daytona shrimp, common shrimp, and southern shrimp).

 

White shrimp range from Fire Island, New York to St. Lucie Inlet on the Atlantic Coast of Florida. Along the Atlantic Coast of the U.S., the white shrimp has centers of abundance in South Carolina, Georgia, and northeast Florida. White shrimp are generally found on muddy bottoms concentrated in waters < 27 m (89 ft.).  White shrimp are more active during daylight hours.

All penaeid shrimp undergo 11 larval stages in coastal waters with the period for white shrimp being 10 to 12 days.  The mechanism for larval recruitment to the estuaries is not fully understood, but most likely involves nearshore tidal currents as early as April to July.  Juveniles are typical found in small creeks of the estuaries with growth rates of up to 2.3 mm per day (SAFMC 1996b).  Sub-adults migrate to the sounds, with an offshore migration of mature adults (> 120mm) typically occurring between April and June, with spawning occurring within a few miles of the coast at temperatures above 22o.

All penaeid shrimp have an annual life cycle.  Their abundance is driven primarily by environmental conditions (water temperature) and can fluctuate seasonal.  White shrimp is the largest shrimp fishery in the Southeast, with a roe season in the spring, the bulk of the harvest in the fall, and an overwintering fishery (usually in federal waters > 3nm).  It is managed under the SAFMC’s Shrimp FMP as an annual crop.  As such standard procedures to establish an overfishing threshold are difficult.  Instead, the Council establishes targets and thresholds based on annual landings and CPUE data from the Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program – South Atlantic (SEAMAP-SA) to indicate relative abundance (health) of the stock.

 

Vulnerabilities and sources of mortality include predation, decline in estuarine water quality, environmental conditions (winter freeze kills, coastal flooding, etc.), and disease (black gill).


Brown Shrimp

Editors:  Pat Geer

 

Farfantepeneaus aztecus  – Brown Shrimp (brownie, green lake shrimp, red shrimp, redtail shrimp, golden shrimp, native shrimp, and also the summer shrimp in North Carolina).

 

Brown shrimp occur on the Atlantic Coast from Martha‘s Vineyard, Massachusetts to the Florida Keys. Breeding populations apparently do not range north of North Carolina. The species may occur in commercial quantities in waters as deep as 110 m (361 ft.), but they are most abundant in water less than 55 m (180 ft.),  in areas of mud, sand, and shell bottom.  Brown shrimp burrow into the sediment and are most active at night.

All penaeid shrimp undergo 11 larval stages in coastal waters with the period for brown shrimp being 11 to 17 days.  Postlarvae overwintering in offshore bottom sediments.  The mechanism for larval recruitment to the estuaries is not fully understood with an influx of postlarvae reported during February and March (Bearden 1961; DeLancey et al. 1994).  Juveniles are typical found in small creeks of the estuaries with growth rates of up to 2.5 mm per day (SAFMC 1996b).  Sub-adults migrate to the sounds, with an offshore migration of mature adults (> 140mm) has been reported off South Carolina during October and November (SAFMC 1996b).  The precise spawning area is uncertain but believed to be further offshore (> 9nm).

All penaeid shrimp have an annual life cycle.  Brown shrimp is driven primarily by environmental conditions (water temperature and salinity) and can fluctuate seasonal. Brown shrimp are primarily a summer (June to August) fishery in the South Atlantic.  ).  It is managed under the SAFMC’s Shrimp FMP as an annual crop.  As such standard procedures to establish an overfishing threshold are difficult.  Instead, the Council establishes targets and thresholds based on annual landings and CPUE data from the Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program – South Atlantic (SEAMAP-SA) to indicate relative abundance (health) of the stock.

 

Vulnerabilities and sources of mortality include predation, decline in estuarine water quality, environmental conditions (coastal flooding), and disease (black gill).


Pink Shrimp

Editors:  Pat Geer

 

Farfantepenaeus duorarum  – Pink Shrimp (spotted shrimp, hopper, pink spotted shrimp, brown spotted shrimp, grooved shrimp, green shrimp, pink night shrimp, red shrimp, skipper, and pushed shrimp).

 

Along the Atlantic, pink shrimp occur from southern Chesapeake Bay to the Florida Keys but are most common in Florida and North Carolina. Pink shrimp are most abundant in waters of 11-37 m (36-121 ft.).  They are common in the estuaries surrounding southern Florida and into deepwater (approximately 100 meters) southeast of the Keys, and are the dominant species within the Dry Tortugas shrimping grounds and Florida Bay (Solamon 1968).  Pink shrimp prefer hard sand and calcareous shell bottom (Williams 1955, 1984).  They burrow into the sediment by day and are most active at night.

All penaeid shrimp undergo 11 larval stages in coastal waters with the period for pink shrimp being 15 to 25 days.   The larval transport mechanism for pink shrimp larvae to enter the estuaries is not well known but shoreward counter currents and favorable winds may enhance movement to the northeast Florida coast (Kennedy and Barber 1981; Wenner et al. 1998).  Florida pink shrimp typically leave the estuaries two to six months after recruitment.  Growth varies by region and season with a range of 0.25 to 1.7 mm per day (SAFMC 1993).  In Florida, growth quicker in the winter than in the spring, while North Carolina growth rates peak during the summer (SAFMC 1993).  Offshore migration of mature adults (> 85mm) occurs in April and May, and again during October and November in Florida. (SAFMC 1996b), while small pink shrimp first occurring in North Carolina commercial catches in August.

All penaeid shrimp have an annual life cycle.  Their abundance is driven primarily by environmental conditions (water temperature) and can fluctuate seasonal.  Pink shrimp harvest occurs nearly exclusively in Florida (67%) and North Carolina (33%) (NOAA Fisheries, 2017).  ).  Thee fishery  is managed under the SAFMC’s Shrimp FMP as an annual crop.  As such standard procedures to establish an overfishing threshold are difficult.  Instead, the Council establishes targets and thresholds based on annual landings and CPUE data from the Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program – South Atlantic (SEAMAP-SA) to indicate relative abundance (health) of the stock.

 

Vulnerabilities and sources of mortality include predation, decline in estuarine water quality, environmental conditions (cold water kills).


Sea Bob Shrimp

Editors:  Pat Geer

 

Xiphopenaeus kroyeri   – Seabob Shrimp (Atlantic seabob).

 

Seabob shrimp range from North Carolina to Brazil (Tavares 2002) but it is not a common commercial species in the South Atlantic with no reported landings the past ten years (2006-2015) (NOAA Fisheries 2017).  Louisiana dominates the Gulf of Mexico commercial harvest with 90% of the report landing the past ten years (Bourgeois et al. 2016).  Seabobs inhabit offshore waters up to 70m, but are most common in depth less than 27m over mud or sand bottom across a large salinity gradient.  Abundance is highest from October to December in the Gulf.  

All penaeid shrimp undergo 11 larval stages.  Seabob shrimp are not estuarine dependent, spending their entire life in a narrow area along the coastline (Kutkuhn 1966).  Little is known of their life history but is it believed they can grow to 140mm and ripe females have been found in Louisiana waters in July and August at 63mm (Juneau (1977).

  


Rock Shrimp

Editors:  Chip Collier and Pat Geer

 

Sicyonia brevirostris  – Rock Shrimp (brown rock shrimp, Atlantic rock shrimp).

 

Rock shrimp are very different in appearance from South Atlantic penaeid species. Their exoskeleton is thick, rigid, and stony, covered with short hair.  The abdomen has deep transverse grooves and numerous tubercles.

 

Rock shrimp are found in the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. to Virginia (SAFMC 1993). The center of abundance and the concentrated commercial fishery for rock shrimp in the south Atlantic region occurs off northeast Florida south to Jupiter Inlet. Their habitat is limited, usually associated with terrigenous and biogenic sand substrates and only sporadically on mud. Rock shrimp also utilize hardbottom and coral, more specifically Oculina, habitat areas (Cobb et al 1973; Milliman 1972; SAFMC 1993).  The largest concentrations are found between 25 and 65 meters but have been found to depths of 200m

 

Female rock shrimp attain sexual maturity at about 17 mm carapace length (CL), and all males are mature by 24 mm CL.  The spawning season for rock shrimp is variable with a peak beginning between November and January and lasting 3 months (Kennedy et al. 1977). Individual females may spawn three or more times in one season.

 

The development from egg to postlarvae takes approximately one month, with subsequent development to the smallest mode of recruits occurring in two to three months.  The major larval transport mechanism is the shelf current systems near Cape Canaveral, Florida (Bumpus 1973) with recruitment to the offshore waters of Cape Canaveral between April and August.

 

Rates of growth in rock shrimp are variable and depend on factors such as season, water temperature, shrimp density, size, and sex. Rock shrimp grow about 2 to 3 millimeters CL per month as juveniles and 0.5 - 0.6 millimeters CL per month as adults (Kennedy et al. 1977).

 

Rock shrimp are bottom feeders, most active at night, with a diet primarily of mollusks, crustaceans, and polychaete worms (Kennedy et al. 1977).

 

Although rock shrimp are also found off North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia and are occasionally landed in these states, no sustainable commercially harvestable quantities of rock shrimp comparable to the fishery prosecuted in the EEZ off Florida are being exploited. Rock shrimp are included in the fishery management unit (FMU) of the Shrimp FMP of the South Atlantic Region.

 

Vulnerabilities and sources of mortality include fishing mortality in combination with high natural mortality and possibly poor environmental conditions.

 

Royal Red Shrimp

Editors:  Pat Geer

 

Pleoticus robustus  – Royal Red Shrimp

 

Royal red shrimp are characterized by a body covered with short hair and a rostrum with the ventral margin toothless. A post orbital spine is evident on the side of the carapace (Anderson, 1962). Color can range from orange to milky white.

 

Royal red shrimp are found on the continental slope throughout the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic area from Cape Cod to French Guiana. In the South Atlantic they are found in large concentrations primarily off northeast Florida. They inhabit the upper regions of the continental slope from 180 meters to about 730 meters, but concentrations are usually found at depths > 250 meters (SAFMC 2009).

 

Males mature at 125 mm total length (TL), while females mature at 155 mm TL (Anderson and Lindner, 1975).  Spawning peaks off the east coast of Florida during winter and spring, although some spawning occurs throughout the year.   Larval development of this species is unknown with Anderson and Lindner (1975) suggesting they recruit to the fishery at age two and may live up to five years.  Little is known on their growth rates and habitat preferences other than depth as described above.

 

The South Atlantic commercially fishery is almost exclusively in the EEZ off Florida with harvest averaging just over 100,000 lbs. the past ten years (2006-2015) (NOAA Fisheries, 2017). Overfishing has been a concern given the long-lived nature of the species.  Royal red shrimp are not included in the Fishery Management Unit for the Shrimp FMP of the South Atlantic because no management measures were being proposed for the species when the FMP was developed.

 

Vulnerabilities and sources of mortality include fishing mortality and loss of habitat.


Golden Crab

Editor: Marcel Reichert

Description and Distribution

The golden crab, Chaceon fenneri, is a large gold or buff colored species whose diagnostic characters include an hexagonal carapace; five anterolateral teeth on each side of carapace; well-developed, large frontal teeth; shallow, rounded orbits; chelipeds unequal; and the dactyli of the walking legs laterally compressed (Manning and Holthuis 1984, 1989). Golden crab inhabit the continental slope of Bermuda (Luckhurst 1986; Manning and Holthuis 1986) and the southeastern United States from off Chesapeake Bay (Schroeder 1959), south through the Straits of Florida and into the eastern Gulf of Mexico (Manning and Holthuis 1984, 1986; Otwell et al. 1984; Wenner et al. 1987, Erdman 1990).

Reported depth distributions of C. fenneri range from 205 m off the Dry Tortugas (Manning and Holthuis 1984) to 1007 m off Bermuda (Manning and Holthuis 1986). Size of males examined range from 34 to 139 mm carapace length (CL) and females range from 39 to 118 mm CL. Ovigerous females have been reported during September, October and November, and range in size from 91 to 118 mm CL (Manning and Holthuis 1984, 1986).

The following text is from Lockhart et al. (1990):

―The distribution patterns of Chaceon fenneri and possibly C. quinquedens in the eastern Gulf of Mexico suggest a causal role for the Loop Current System (Maul 1977) in basic life history adaptations. Female distribution within these species‘ geographic ranges and the timing of larval release supports this hypothesis. Ours was the first study to discover female golden crabs in any significant numbers and was also the first to find a major population of female red crabs in the Gulf of Mexico. Both of these concentrations of females were seemingly shifted counter-current to the Loop Current circulation. We hypothesize that this counter-current shift is linked to larval release and transport, and serves to maximize recruitment into the parent population by minimizing risk of larval flushing.

Similar counter-current shifts of other female decapods have been reported or hypothesized. In the Gulf of Mexico, spawning female blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) have been hypothesized to undergo a late summer spawning migration in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico that is counter to the Loop Current system (Oesterling and Adams 1979). Female western rock lobsters (Panulirus cygnus) are hypothesized to undergo migration to favor recruitment back into the parent population (Phillips et al. 1979). Kelly et al. (1982) proposed that only those red crab larvae (Chaceon quinquedens) released up-current in the species‘ range will recruit back into the parent population. Melville-Smith (1987a, 1987b, 1987c) in a tagging study of red crabs (C. maritae) off the coast of southwest Africa, showed that the only segment of the population exhibiting significant directional movement were adult females: 32% of recaptures had moved greater than 100 km and the greatest distance traveled was 380 km over 5 yr. This directional movement was later shown to be counter to the prevailing surface currents (Melville-Smith 1990).

Thus, within decapods in general, and the genus in particular, adult females are capable of, and appear to undergo, long-distance directional movement in their lifetimes.

A similar migration of adult female golden crabs, counter-current to Loop Current circulation in the Gulf of Mexico, would produce the geographic population structure observed off the southeastern United States. Females would be most common farthest up-current whereas males would be most common intermediate in the species geographic range. Wenner et al. (1987) reported a 15:1 (M:F) sex ratio in the South Atlantic Bight and in this study, we had an overall sex ratio of 1:4 — both consistent with hypothesized net female movements to accommodate larval retention and offset the risk of larval flushing.

In fact, given this, two female strategies could maximize recruitment in a prevailing current. The first is for females to position themselves far enough up current so that entrainment would return larvae to the parent population (Sastry 1983). The second is to avoid larval entrainment altogether and thus avoid flushing of the larvae out of the system. Female Chaceon fenneri, and perhaps C. quinquedens, appear to use both strategies but rely mainly on the latter.

Female golden crabs release larvae offshore in depths usually shallower than 500 m. If larvae were released directly into the Loop Current-Gulf Stream System, they would be entrained for their entire developmental period. Given a developmental time of 33-40 d at 18°C (K. Stuck, Gulf Coast Research Laboratories, Ocean Springs, Mississippi, pers. comm.) and current speeds of 10-20 cm/sec (Sturges and Evans 1983), transport of the larvae would be 285 km to 690 km downstream. Thus, larvae released on the Atlantic side of Florida are in danger of being flushed out of the species‘ range before recruiting to the benthic stock. Likewise, larvae released directly into the current in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico would be flushed from the Gulf.

Female golden crabs release larvae from February to March (Erdman and Blake 1988; Erdman et al., 1989) and the greatest concentration of female golden crabs to date found in this study was in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico off central Florida. Only during this period and in this region (Maul, 1977), can female golden crabs avoid complete entrainment and possible flushing of larvae out of the system. Partial entrainment of larvae might still occur, but its duration should be much reduced, and the risk of larval flushing minimal. This hypothesis predicts that most larvae should be found near the concentrations of females we found in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico with decreasing settlement further downstream. The abundance of juveniles should show a similar pattern. Fishery Ecosystem Plan of the South Atlantic Region Volume II Habitat and Species 298

One need not invoke similar counter-current movements for male geryonid crabs. In particular, males moving perpendicular to adult females (i.e. males moving up and down the continental slope) would have a greater encounter rate with females than males moving along the slope with females. Given low female reproductive frequency (Erdman et al. 1989), intense male-female competition (Lindberg and Lockhart 1988), and probability of multiple broods (Hinsch 1988) from a single protracted copulation (H. M. Perry, pers. obs.), the male strategy should be to intercept relatively rare receptive females all along the species‘ range, not to aggregate with presumably inseminated females. This hypothesis would predict a relatively uniform abundance of males along their geographic range. In addition, the incidence of inseminated females should be high farthest upstream with an ever decreasing percentage down-stream. Our study supports the former hypothesis but we cannot address the latter.

The distributional patterns of geryonid crabs we observed are consistent with those reported from elsewhere. Furthermore, these patterns lead us to suggest that the Loop Current System has had a causal role in life history adaptations of Chaceon fenneri and perhaps C. quinquedens. In general, females are expected to release larvae during a time and in a region where risk of larval flushing is minimal (Sinclair 1988), whereas males are expected to compete intensely for rare, receptive mates.‖

The coastal physical oceanography in the Florida Keys was described by Yeung (1991) in a study of lobster recruitment:

―The strong, northward-flowing Florida Current is the part of the Gulf Stream system confined within the Straits of Florida. It continues from the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico, and proceeds beyond Cape Hatteras as the North Atlantic Gulf Stream.

The mean axis of the Florida Current is approximately 80 km offshore of Key West and 25 km off Miami (Lee et al. 1991). Mean annual cross-stream surface current speed in the Straits of Florida is approximately 100 cm/s (U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office 1965).

Brooks and Niller (1975) observed a persistent countercurrent near Key West extending from surface to the bottom, and from nearshore to approximately 20 km seaward. They believed that it was part of the cyclonic recalculation of the Florida Current between the Lower and Middle Keys.

The presence of a cold, cyclonic gyre was confirmed by physical oceanographic data collected in the SEFCAR cruises. It was named the Pourtales Gyre since it occurs over the Pourtales Terrace -- that area of the continental shelf off the Lower and Middle Keys (Lee et al. 1991). When the Florida Current moves offshore, the Pourtales Gyre forms over the Pourtales Terrace, and can last for a period of 1-4 weeks.

The Pourtales Gyre could entrain and retain locally spawned planktonic larvae for a short period. The combination of the cyclonic circulation and enhanced surface Ekman transport could also advect foreign arrivals into, and concentrate them at, the coastal boundary (Lee et al. 1991).

Vertical distribution of the larvae within the 3-dimensional circulation will subject them to complicated hydrographic gradients, which might influence their development time, and hence Fishery Ecosystem Plan of the South Atlantic Region Volume II Habitat and Species 299

their dispersal potential (Kelly et al. 1982; Sulkin and McKeen 1989). Thus, variability in the circulation features and water mass properties can lead to variability in larval transport and recruitment.‖

The Pourtales Gyre may provide a mechanism for entrainment of golden crab larvae spawned on the Florida east coast, and also as a mechanism to entrain and advect larvae from the Gulf and Caribbean (e.g., Cuba). This possibility is supported by the conclusion of Yeung (1991) suggesting that larvae of a foreign origin supply recruits to the Florida spiny lobster population:

―The foreign supply of pre-recruits arriving with the Florida Current might easily meet the same fate as the locally spawned larvae, that is, passing on with the Florida Current. The Pourtales Gyre may play a significant role in recruitment by providing a physical mechanism to entrain and advect larvae into the coastal boundary.

The Pourtales Gyre, even if linked with the Dry Tortugas gyre or the Florida Bay circulation, may not be able to provide a pathway much more than 2 months in period. For locally spawned Panulirus larvae to be retained for their entire development would require several circuits -- not impossible, but unlikely.‖

The timing of the Pourtales Gyre provides a mechanism for local recruitment of Scyllarus larvae (Yeung 1991) and may also provide a similar mechanism for golden crab larvae. Golden crab larvae from the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba, and possibly other areas of the Caribbean, probably provide larvae to the South Atlantic population. The proportion of local recruitment is unknown but could be significant.

Wenner et al. (1987) note: ―Other studies have described an association of G. quinquedens with soft substrates. Wigley et al. (1975) noted that bottom sediments throughout the area surveyed for red crab from offshore Maryland to Corsair Canyon (Georges Bank) consisted of a soft, olive-green, silt-clay mixture. If golden crabs preferentially inhabit soft substrates, then their zone of maximum abundance may be limited within the South Atlantic Bight. Surveys by Bullis and Rathjen (1959) indicated that green mud occurred consistently at 270-450 m between St. Augustine and Cape Canaveral, FL (30°N and 28°N). This same depth range from Savannah, GA to St. Augustine was generally characterized by Bullis and Rathjen (1959) as extremely irregular bottom with some smooth limestone or ―slab‖ rock present. Our study indicates, however, that the bottom due east between Savannah and St. Catherines Island, GA at 270-540 m consists of mud and biogenic ooze. Further north from Cape Fear, NC to Savannah, bottom topography between 270 and 450 m is highly variable with rocky outcrops, sand and mud ooze present (Low and Ulrich 1983).‖

In a subsequent study using a submersible, Wenner and Barans (1990) found the greatest abundance in rock outcrops:

―Observations on density and a characterization of essential habitat for golden crab, Chaceon fenneri, were made from a submersible along 85 transects in depths of 389-567 m approximately 122 km southeast of Charleston, South Carolina. Additional observations on habitat were made on 16 transects that crossed isobaths between 293-517 m.

Seven essential habitat types can be identified for golden crab from observations: Fishery Ecosystem Plan of the South Atlantic Region Volume II Habitat and Species 300

 

A flat foraminiferon ooze habitat (405-567 m) was the most frequently encountered habitat. This habitat type is characterized by pteropod-foraminiferan debris mixed with larger shell fragments, a sediment surface mostly covered with a black phosphorite precipitate;

 Distinct mounds, primarily of dead coral at depths of 503 to 555 meters, constituted 20% of the bottom surveyed on dives to count crabs. Coral mounds rose approximately 15 to 23 meters in height above the surrounding sea floor and included several that were thinly veneered with a fine sediment and dead coral fragments, as well as a number that were thickly encrusted with live branching ahermatypic corals (Lophelia prolifera and Enallopsammia profunda). Fan-shaped sponges, pennatulids and crinoids were oriented into the northerly 1.4-1.9 km- h-1 current. The decapod crustaceans Bathynectes longispina, Eugonatonotus crassus and Eumunida pita, the black-bellied rosefish, Helicolenus dactylopterus, and the wreckfish, Polyprion americanus, were frequently sighted along transects in the coral mound habitat.

 Ripple habitat (320-539 m); dunes (389-472 m); black pebble habitat (446-564 m); low outcrop (466-512 m); and soft-bioturbated habitat (293-475 m). A total of 109 C. fenneri were sighted within the 583,480 m2 of bottom surveyed. Density (mean no. per 1,000 m2) was significantly different among habitats, with highest values (0.7 per 1,000 m2) noted among low rock outcrops. Lowest densities were observed in the dune habitat (<0.1 per 1,000 m2), while densities for other habitats were similar (0.15-0.22 per 1,000 m2).‖

A similar submersible study in the eastern Gulf of Mexico (Lindberg and Lockhart, 1993) found similar results with higher abundance on hardbottom: ―Within the bathymetric range of golden crabs, crab abundance may be related more to habitat type than to depth. The greatest density (36.5 crabs/ha) occurred on or near hardbottom canyon features.‖

Golden crabs occupy offshore oceanic waters along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts as adults. Offshore areas used by adults are probably the least affected by habitat alterations and water quality degradation. Currently, the primary threat comes from oil and gas development and production, offshore dumping of dredged material, disposal of chemical and other wastes, and the discharge of contaminants by river systems.

Reproduction

Reproduction and anatomy of the reproductive tracts of males and females of the golden crab Geryon fenneri were studied by Hinsch (1988) in specimens collected from deep water of the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

―The male crab is larger than female. Their reproductive tracts are typical of brachyurans. Light and electron microscopic studies of the testes and vasa deferentia at various times during the year indicate that G. fenneri has a single reproductive season. Spermatogenesis begins in the fall. By January, many acini of the testes are filled with mature sperm and spermatophores and seminal fluids accumulate in the anterior and middle vasa deferentia. In March all portions of the vasa Fishery Ecosystem Plan of the South Atlantic Region Volume II Habitat and Species 301

deferentia are swollen with seminal products. Mating occurs during March and April. The reproductive organs of males are reduced in size from May through September.

The fully developed ovary of golden crabs is purple in color. Females oviposit in September and October. Females undergo vitellogenesis at the same time that they carry eggs undergoing embryonic development. Females with broods have ovaries which vary in color and size. They release their larvae during February and March. Females may be reproductive for several seasons and appear to be capable of mating while in the hardened condition‖

Also see Erdman, R.B., N.J. Blake, F.D. Lockhart, W.J. Lindberg, H.M. Perry, and R.S. Waller. 1991. Comparative reproduction of the deep-sea crabs Chaceon fenneri and C. quenquedens (Brachyura: Geryonidae) from the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Journal of Invertebrate Reproduction and Development 19:175-184.

Development, growth and movement patterns

Wenner et al. (1987) found in the South Atlantic Bight that:

―Size-related distribution of C. fenneri with depth, similar to that reported for red crab, may occur in the South Atlantic Bight. We found the largest crabs in the shallowest (274-366 m) and deepest (733-823 m) strata. A clear trend of size-related up-slope migrations such as Wigley et al. (1975) reported for C. quinquedens is not apparent, however, because of trap bias for capture of larger crabs of both sexes. Otwell et al. (1984) also noted no pattern in size of golden crab by depth for either sex. Tagging studies of red crab off southern New England provided no evidence for migration patterns and indicated instead that tagged crabs seldom moved more than 20 km from their site of release (Lux et al. 1982).‖

Lindberg and Lockhart (1993) found in the Gulf of Mexico:

―The golden crab Chaceon fenneri in the eastern Gulf of Mexico exhibits a typical bathymetric pattern of partial sex zonation and an inverse size-depth relationship, as first reported for red crabs (C. quinquedens: Wigley et al. 1975; C. maritae: Beyers and Wilke 1980). Sex segregation, with females shallower than most males, was more evident in our results than in those of Wenner et al. (1987) from the South Atlantic Bight, primarily because our trap catch had a higher proportion of females (25.9% compared to 5.2%).‖ Also see above section on distribution for details on movement patterns.

Ecological relationships

Feeding habits are very poorly known. Golden crabs are often categorized as scavengers that feed opportunistically on dead carcasses deposited on the bottom from overlying waters (Hines 1990).

Abundance and status of stocks

Golden crab abundance studies are limited. Data from the South Atlantic Bight (Wenner et al. 1987) estimated abundance from visual assessment was 1.9 crabs per hectare while traps caught between 2 and 10 kg per trap. Wenner and Barans (1990) estimated the golden crab population in small areas of 26-29 square km between 300-500 m off Charleston to be 5,000-6,000 adult crabs. In the eastern Gulf of Mexico adult standing stock was estimated to be 7.8 million golden crabs and the biomass was estimated to be 6.16 million kg (13.6 million pounds) (Lindberg et al. 1989). Experimental trapping off Georgia yielded an average catch of 7 kg per trap (Kendall 1990).

Based on exploratory trapping, golden crab maximum abundance occurs between 367 and 549 meters in the South Atlantic Bight. Information on sediment composition suggests that golden crab abundance is influenced by sediment type with highest catches on substrates containing a mixture of silt-clay and foraminiferan shell (Wenner et al. 1987).

Participation in the Fishery

In contrast to mean monthly size, the length distribution of golden crabs sampled in the TIP survey has been remarkably consistent from 1995 to 2003 (Figure 4.1-15). Except for 1999(Figure 4.1-16, e), the modal length appears to be very close to 150 mm in all years, and the breadth of sizes observed has also been similar (Figure 4.1-15, d, f-i). The modal length was notably smaller in 1999 than in other years

 


Lobsters

Spiny Lobster

Editor(s):  Ask Kari McLaughlin to edit

(Wally Bubley edits 5/22/2017)

Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus (crayfish, crawfish, langosta, and Florida lobster)

Caribbean spiny lobsters are by far the most abundant lobster off of the Atlantic waters off the southeast US. They vary from whitish to a dark red-orange. The two large, cream-colored spots on the top of the second segment of the tail. There are also two smaller cream-colored spots adjacent to the tail fan. Spiny lobsters lack the large, distinctive, crushing claws of their northern cousins, the American lobster.

The Caribbean spiny lobster occurs throughout the Caribbean Sea, along the shelf waters of the southeastern United States north to North Carolina, in Bermuda, and south to Brazil and the Gulf of Mexico. The origins of the Florida stock remain unknown as information on larval recruitment remains scarce. However, given the constant recruitment to the fishery despite the reduction in spawning potential of the Florida stock, recruitment is probably in large part exogenous.

The Caribbean spiny lobster is a highly migratory species with a complex life cycle in which distinctly different habitat types are occupied during ontogeny. There are both oceanic and inshore stages with preferential environments including open ocean during planktonic stages, stages utilizing dense vegetation such as seagrass meadows as juveniles, and crevice shelters provided by live and hard-bottom habitat as larger juveniles and adults . Large juvenile and adult lobsters are very mobile and capable of moving several miles during nocturnal foraging. They are nocturnal feeders and predominantly prey upon live molluscs and crustacea, including hermit crabs and conch.

Mating and spawning of eggs in Caribbean spiny lobster can occur throughout the range of mature adults. The release of eggs of P. argus occurs principally from April through September. Mating and spawning behavior appear, in part, controlled by environmental factors, including day length and water temperatures. The onset of population-wide reproductive maturation of female lobsters occurs at about 70-75 mm CL, though females as small as 57 mm CL have been observed bearing eggs, with larger females spawning earlier in the reproductive season than smaller females. The onset of population-wide functional maturity in males has been estimated to occur at 98 mm CL (FWC unpublished data). Growth rates are fastest at smallest sizes and decrease dramatically as lobsters attain sexual maturity.

In the Atlantic waters off the SE US, Caribbean Spiny Lobster is managed by the SAFMC and is subject to  size and bag limits, gear restrictions, and fishing seasons. They are caught by both commercial and recreational fishers, with traps being the most commonly used gear along with diver harvest.


Coral – Roger & Chip - Need same type of summary

Sargassum – Roger & Chip - Need same type of summary


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