Scientists Report on
Summer Flounder, Goosefish,
Scup, and Ocean Quahog
NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center
N E W SWoods Hole, MA-- Scientists reported today on the status of four Northeastern marine fish and shellfish species. The report indicates that the summer flounder (fluke) stock continues to improve under its recovery plan, that goosefish (monkfish) and scup stocks are at very low levels and need the protection provided by the current rebuilding plans, and that the ocean quahog stock is healthy and plentiful.
"In the case of summer flounder, these findings confirm that when rebuilding occurs harvesters see benefits even before full recovery is reached," says Patricia Kurkul, NOAA Fisheries regional administrator for the Northeast. NOAA Fisheries is the federal agency charged with building sustainable fisheries in U.S. territorial waters.
She adds, "Although the rebuilding measures for goosefish and scup are controversial, this report confirms that they are needed if we hope to recover these stocks for commercial and recreational use."
The findings were reported today at a regular meeting of the New England Fishery Management Council, the body that devises regional management plans for commercial and recreational fisheries in this region's federal waters.
The scientific report is a product of the 31st meeting of the Northeast Regional Stock Assessment Review Committee (SARC), the scientific body convened regularly since 1985 to peer-review fish stock status analyses and produce scientific advice used by fishery managers in the Northeast.
The review panel noted that goosefish landings have increased over the last two decades while stock size has declined. Older, larger fish are less prevalent in the population today than in the past and egg production has declined. A new fishery management plan that was recently adopted for this stock includes measures to reduce fishing mortality and rebuild the stock.
The panel reports that although the harvest rate for summer flounder has declined significantly since 1994, it is still higher than the target rate established by the Mid-Atlantic Council. The spawning stock continues to increase, the number of new fish entering the population has improved, and the population reflects a wider range of ages than prior to the rebuilding plan. The analyses also shows that these gains may be slowing, suggesting the importance of achieving the long-term target fishing harvest rates.
Scup are important to commercial and recreational fisheries in Southern New England and south to North Carolina. The analyses show that the spawning stock is still only a fraction of that anticipated in a rebuilt stock. Analyses showed that a moderately high number of fish born in 1999 have survived their first year, thus representing an opportunity for improved spawning stock in the future if they continue to survive. The report also notes the ongoing problem of discards, and that reducing catch by vessels targeting other species would have immediate benefits for rebuilding.
Ocean quahog are a long-lived bivalve mollusk found from Maine to the Mid-Atlantic. Those in warmer waters grow faster and are used mostly for processed products, while those in colder waters grow more slowly and are harvested for sale as an in-shell product. The SARC analyses show the stock to be at a relatively high abundance and the fishery to be harvesting at a sustainable rate, but notes the slow expansion of the fishery into new harvest areas and cautions about localized depletions in some areas.
The Stock Assessment Review Committee Reports are one part of the information used by scientists and managers to describe the status of fish and shellfish stocks and to build sustainable fisheries. The New England Management Council shares responsibility for managing goosefish with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. Scup, ocean quahog, and summer flounder are managed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council in consultation with the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission on species and fisheries that occur in both state and federal waters.