Species of Deep Water fish

Speckled hind (courtesy of Duane Raver from the book Fishes of the Southeastern United States)The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) rescinded vital protections today for two severely depleted deepwater fish species in the South Atlantic, speckled hind and warsaw grouper. These fish are “extremely vulnerable to overfishing, ” according to NMFS, as they grow slowly, can live up to 40 years, and tend to spawn in groups. They’re also impressive animals – speckled hind can grow to three and a half feet and weigh up to 66 pounds, while warsaw grouper can reach seven feet and 450 pounds. Adding to their curiosity factor – and one of the main reasons they’ve become so scarce – is that they’re all born as females and only transform into males upon maturity, at about six to seven years. This means when most of the larger, older males have been removed by fishing, the species simply can’t reproduce to healthy numbers.

Taken together, this is why speckled hind and warsaw grouper are in serious trouble. A recent comparison of catch found no speckled hind older than 10 years by the mid-2000’s, whereas fish as old as 35 years were detected in the late 1970’s, indicating that the older, larger individuals had been removed by fishing. Both species have been designated as “Species of Concern” by NMFS (one step short of listing under the Endangered Species Act), “Critically Endangered” by International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and “Endangered” by the American Fisheries Society.

Warsaw grouper (courtesy of Duane Raver from the book Fishes of the Southeastern United States)Today’s decision reverses NMFS’s earlier determination at the end of 2010 that such measures were required to stop overfishing of these species. Failure to prevent overfishing is not only illegal under federal fisheries law, but threatens the species’ very long-term survival. Overfishing has been an especially persistent problem in the South Atlantic where eight species (and probably many more), including speckled hind and warsaw grouper, have been fished above a sustainable level for over two decades (see my earlier blog for more on this). Without strong protections these creatures will continue to decline to even more depleted levels.

In 2006, Congress strengthened the federal fisheries law to finally put an end to chronic overfishing. NMFS responded at the end of 2010 by prohibiting anglers from keeping any speckled hind or warsaw grouper, but also determined that a mere ban on landings “would not be sufficient to end overfishing of speckled hind and warsaw grouper” because of the amount that are still unintentionally caught and thrown back dead. This collateral damage, called bycatch, leaves deepwater species with eyes bulged and swim bladders burst from being hauled up too quickly. For such depleted and slow growing species, even a small amount of fishing mortality can prevent recovery and risk continued decline.


Fishing The Gulf of Mexico
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Part of the issue is how species are defined

2009-12-14 09:34:58 by Avogadro602

One of the problems that many who are unschooled in biology suffer from is a need for bright line definitions and demarcations about phenomena in the real world for which these absolute distinctions may not apply.
For instance, say that there is a population of fish that inhabit only the shallows of a very deep, long and narrow lake. These fish are confined to depths of no more than fifteen to twenty feet and originally migrated into the lake during a single event (a regional flood that introduced the parent population from a nearby but separate body of water).


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