Goosefish (Lophius americanus),
also called monkfish, are distributed in the Northwest Atlantic
from the Grand Banks and northern Gulf of St. Lawrence south to
Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Goosefish may be found from inshore
areas to depths of at least 900 m (500 fathoms). Seasonal onshore-offshore
migrations occur and appear to be related to spawning and possibly
food availability (Collette and Klein-MacPhee 2002).
Goosefish rest partially buried
on soft bottom substrates and attract prey using a modified first
dorsal fin ray that resembles a fishing pole and lure. Goosefish
are piscivorous and commonly eat prey as large as themselves. Growth
is rapid at about 10 cm per year, and is similar for both sexes
up to age 6 and lengths of around 60 cm (24 in.). Few males are
found older than age 7, but females can live to 12-14 years or older
(NEFSC 2002, 2005). Goosefish as large as 138 cm (54 in.) have been
captured in NEFSC bottom trawl surveys.
Female goosefish begin to mature
at age 4 and 50% of females are mature by age 5 (about 43 cm or
17 in.). Males mature at slightly younger ages and smaller sizes
(50% maturity at age 4.2 or 36 cm (14 in.) (NEFSC 2002). Spawning
takes place from spring through early autumn, progressing from south
to north, with most spawning occurring during the spring and early
summer. Females lay a buoyant mucoid egg raft or veil which can
be as large as 12 m (39 ft) long and 1.5 m (5 ft) wide and only
a few mm thick. The eggs are arranged in a single layer in the veil,
and the larvae hatch after about 1-3 weeks, depending on water temperature.
The larvae and juveniles spend several months in a pelagic phase
before settling to a benthic existence at a size of about 8 cm (3
in.) (Collette and Klein-MacPhee 2002).
Genetic studies have revealed
a genetically homogeneous population of goosefish off the U.S. east
coast (Chikarmane et al. 2000) and survey information indicates
little or no difference in growth and maturation rates between goosefish
from southern and northern management regions (NEFSC 2002, 2005).
However, because of differences in how the fisheries in these two
regions are prosecuted, goosefish are managed separately as two
“stocks”: the "northern stock" (Gulf of Maine
and northern Georges Bank) and the "southern stock" (southern
Georges Bank and Middle Atlantic (Figure
Commercial fisheries for goosefish occur year round using gillnets,
trawls and scallop dredges. No significant recreational fishery
exists. The primary goosefish products are tails, livers and whole
gutted fish. Peak fishing activity occurs during November through
June, and value of the catch is highest in the fall due to the high
quality of livers during this season.
Most goosefish catch went
unreported until the mid-1970s (Figure
14.2 Data]). Annual USA commercial landings (live weight) increased
to 6,000 mt in 1978 (NEFSC 2005), remained stable at 8,000-10,000
mt during the 1980s, and then increased rapidly in the 1990s, peaking
at 28,300 mt in 1997 (Table 14.1). Landings
in 2004 were 21,100 mt, and averaged 22,800 mt during 2000-2004.
U.S. fisheries for goosefish are
managed under the Monkfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) by the
New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. The primary
goals of the Monkfish FMP are to end and prevent overfishing and
to optimize yield and economic benefits to various fishing sectors
involved with the goosefish fisheries (NEFMC and MAFMC 1998). Current
regulatory measures vary with type of permit but include limited
access, limitations on days at sea, mesh size restrictions, trip
limits, minimum size limits and other measures.
The information provided
in this section reflects the results of the most recent peer-reviewed
assessment for goosefish in the northern and southern management
areas (NEFSC 2005).
In the northern management area,
bottom trawls are the dominant gear type and account for 80% of
the landings. Gillnets account for most of the rest of the landings,
with scallop dredges accounting for less than 1% in recent years.
Most landings of goosefish in the north are taken as bycatch in
the multispecies groundfish fishery. Northern goosefish landings
increased from less than 1,000 mt per year in the early 1970s to
over 10,000 mt in the mid-1990s (Figure
14.2 Data]). Landings peaked at 15,100 mt in 2003 and
were 10,200 mt in 2005 (Table
NEFSC autumn bottom trawl
survey biomass indices of goosefish in the northern area peaked
in the late 1970s and then declined through the mid-1990s (Figure
14.3 Data]), accompanied by decline in the average and
maximum sizes of goosefish in the survey (Figure
14.4 Data]). In 2005, the biomass index was 1.1 kg/tow,
a record-low. The age structure since the early 1990s has been dominated
by goosefish less than 6 years old (Figure
Biological Reference Points
The median of the three-year moving
average of the NEFSC autumn survey biomass index during 1965-1981
has been defined as a proxy for BMSY (2.496) for goosefish
in the northern area (Table 14.2). Goosefish
in the northern management area are defined as being overfished
when the three-year moving average of the NEFSC autumn biomass index
falls below one half of BMSY (i.e. below 1.25) (NEFMC
and MAFMC 1998). The most recent 3-year average of the biomass index
(2003-2005) was 1.21.
Fmax is the FMSY
proxy in the FMP and is currently estimated as F=0.2 based on yield-per-recruit
14.6 Data]) (NEFMC and MAFMC 2003). Recent estimates
of F have exceeded Fmax.
In the southern management area, bottom trawls
and scallop dredges each accounted for roughly half of the landings
until the early 1990s. Since then, most of the landings have been
by gillnets; in 2003, about 66% of goosefish landings were taken
in gillnets, 18% in trawls and 16% by scallop dredges (NEFSC 2005).
Southern goosefish landings increased in the late 1970s, exceeded
landings from the north during the 1990s, and reached a peak of
19,300 mt in 1998 (Figure
14.2 Data]). Subsequently, southern goosefish landings
have declined and were 8,600 mt in 2005 (Table
NEFSC autumn bottom trawl survey biomass indices
of goosefish in the southern area declined during the early 1980s,
stabilized at a low level between 1987 and 1999, and have since been
somewhat higher (Figure
14.7 Data]). Declines in abundance were also accompanied
by declines in the average and maximum sizes of goosefish in the NEFSC
autumn survey (Figure
14.8 Data]). During 2000-2004, the autumn survey
biomass index averaged 0.8 kg/tow, which is also the value of the
2005 index (Figure
14.7 Data]). The age structure since the early 1990s has
been dominated by goosefish less than 6 years old (Figure
Biological Reference Points
The median of the three-year moving average
of the NEFSC autumn survey biomass index during 1967-1981 (1.846
kg/tow) has been defined as the BMSY proxy for goosefish
in the southern area (Table 14.2). Goosefish
in the southern area are defined as being overfished when the
three-year moving average of the NEFSC autumn biomass index falls
below one half of BMSY (i.e. below 0.9). FMSY
is the same as in the north (ie., equal to Fmax, F=0.2).
The 2003-2005 average survey index was 0.78. Recent estimates
of F have tended to exceed Fmax.
Goosefish increased in commercial importance
during the 1980s and 1990s, and by the mid-1990s was the highest
valued finfish in the northeastern U.S. However, biomass indices
and mean fish size of goosefish declined as landings increased.
In 2005, goosefish in both the northern and southern management
areas remained overfished. Status with respect to fishing mortality
rates is uncertain, although overfishing may be occurring.