Last updated on 5 January 2018

SUMMARY

SUMMARY

IDENTIFICATION

SCIENTIFIC NAME(s)

Mycteroperca bonaci

SPECIES NAME(s)

Black grouper

The 2010 stock assessment considers black grouper in the US South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico as a single population although the stock structure is not well known throughout its range. Black grouper in the US South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico are assessed as a single population but managed separately (SEDAR 2010). This profile refers to the Northern Gulf of Mexico and NW Atlantic southern assessment. 


ANALYSIS

Strengths
  • Management is based on results of peer reviewed stock assessments relative to explicitly defined biological reference points.
  • Explicit harvest control rules and accountability measures are in place to minimize the risk of overfishing and allow overfished stocks to rebuild. 
  • Interactions with marine mammal species are considered to be low.
  • A system of managed areas protects critical habitat for target species and the ecosystem.
  • Results of the most recent stock assessment (2010) indicated that stock biomass was above target levels and removal rates were sustainable.
  • Preliminary data suggest that management measures implemented in 2010 appear to have reduced previously excessive interactions with sea turtles in the longline fishery to acceptable levels.
  • Mandatory harvester reporting, with bycatch and discards sampled (not 100%) through bycatch logbooks and an observer program.
Weaknesses
  • Stock structure is not well known throughout its range. Black grouper in the US South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico are assessed as a single population but managed separately.
  • Multispecies fishery with limited selectivity; many species captured in fishery have no formal stock assessment.
  • Annual catch limits are established for a species complex, which may not be adequately sensitive to individual species within the complex.
  • A recently scheduled stock assessment was delayed due to uncertainty in species identification in early commercial landings. The most recent stock assessment was completed in 2010 with data through 2008.
  • Interactions with protected species are known to occur, particularly in the longline fishery. Excessive interactions with sea turtles have been addressed through management measures, but no formal report on their effect has been developed. 

FISHSOURCE SCORES

Management Quality:

Management Strategy:

7.7

Managers Compliance:

10

Fishers Compliance:

10

Stock Health:

Current
Health:

9.6

Future Health:

10


FIPS

No related FIPs

CERTIFICATIONS

No related MSC fisheries

Fisheries

Within FishSource, the term "fishery" is used to indicate each unique combination of a flag country with a fishing gear, operating within a particular management unit, upon a resource. That resource may have a known biological stock structure and/or may be assessed at another level for practical or jurisdictional reasons. A fishery is the finest scale of resolution captured in FishSource profiles, as it is generally the scale at which sustainability can most fairly and practically be evaluated.

ASSESSMENT UNIT MANAGEMENT UNIT FLAG COUNTRY FISHING GEAR
Northern Gulf of Mexico and NW Atlantic southern US Gulf of Mexico United States Bottom-set longlines
Vertical Lines
US NW Atlantic Southern United States Vertical Lines

Analysis

OVERVIEW

Last updated on 5 January 2018

Strengths
  • Management is based on results of peer reviewed stock assessments relative to explicitly defined biological reference points.
  • Explicit harvest control rules and accountability measures are in place to minimize the risk of overfishing and allow overfished stocks to rebuild. 
  • Interactions with marine mammal species are considered to be low.
  • A system of managed areas protects critical habitat for target species and the ecosystem.
  • Results of the most recent stock assessment (2010) indicated that stock biomass was above target levels and removal rates were sustainable.
US Gulf of Mexico

Last updated on 5 January 2018

  • Preliminary data suggest that management measures implemented in 2010 appear to have reduced previously excessive interactions with sea turtles in the longline fishery to acceptable levels.
  • Mandatory harvester reporting, with bycatch and discards sampled (not 100%) through bycatch logbooks and an observer program.
Weaknesses
  • Stock structure is not well known throughout its range. Black grouper in the US South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico are assessed as a single population but managed separately.
  • Multispecies fishery with limited selectivity; many species captured in fishery have no formal stock assessment.
  • Annual catch limits are established for a species complex, which may not be adequately sensitive to individual species within the complex.
  • A recently scheduled stock assessment was delayed due to uncertainty in species identification in early commercial landings. The most recent stock assessment was completed in 2010 with data through 2008.
US Gulf of Mexico

Last updated on 5 January 2018

  • Interactions with protected species are known to occur, particularly in the longline fishery. Excessive interactions with sea turtles have been addressed through management measures, but no formal report on their effect has been developed. 

1.STOCK STATUS

STOCK ASSESSMENT

Last updated on 21 March 2018

A benchmark stock assessment was completed through the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) process in 2010 with data through 2008 (SEDAR 2010). Previous analyses and management had been performed on separate US South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico stocks, but the 2010 assessment indicated there was no basis for stock separation based on genetic evidence, and species and catch distributions (SEDAR 2010). The 2010 stock assessment therefore considers black grouper in the US South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico as a single population.

The data and assessment team included state, federal, university, and Council representatives, and the review panel consisted of members from the Center for Independent Experts (CIE), federal representatives, and Council appointed reviewers from both the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Manangement Councils. The preferred stock assessment model was run in ASAP2, a statistical catch at age model which allows estimation of absolute abundance, fishing mortality rates, and biological reference points (Legault and Restrepo 1998). Input data consisted of total removals (harvest plus dead discards) from four separate fishing fleets (2 commercial, 2 recreational) biological information, and four fishery dependent and one fishery independent indices of abundance. Fishery selectivity was modeled in three blocks for each fleet to account for differences in gear selectivity and changes to management regulations over time.

A new benchmark assessment, originally scheduled for 2015, was delayed until 2017, but has since been delayed again due to concerns over allocation of misreported gag grouper landings in the early years of reporting (J. Byrd., SEDAR, pers. comm.)

SCIENTIFIC ADVICE

Last updated on 5 January 2018

Biological reference points were established for Gulf of Mexico black grouper through the Generic Sustainable Fishery Management Act Amendment (GMFMC 1999), which recommended managing the stock based on spawning potential (SPR) as a proxy for MSY-based reference points. Biological reference points established by the SAFMC for black grouper in the US South Atlantic management area are consistent with those in the Gulf of Mexico (SEDAR 2010). The Generic Annual Catch Limit/Accountability Measures (ACL/AM) amendment (GMFMC 2011) established the allocation of black grouper harvest levels between the Gulf and South Atlantic regions. This amendment also determined annual catch limits and accountability measures for the GMFMC shallow water grouper complex, which includes black grouper (GMFMC 2011), while ACL/AM for black grouper in the US South Atlantic were set through SAFMC Amendment 25 (SAFMC 2011). The ACLs and AMs in both regions take into account both scientific and management uncertainty when determining annual quotas to minimize the probability of overfishing and allow an overfished stock to rebuild. 

Reference Points

Last updated on 05 Jan 2018

Biological reference points were established for Gulf of Mexico black grouper through the Generic Sustainable Fisheries Act Amendment (GMFMC 1999), which recommended a fishing mortality threshold equal to the fishing mortality that would achieve 30% of maximum spawning potential at equilibrium (F30%SPR). The biomass target is the spawning biomass that provides 30% of maximum spawning potential (SSB30%SPR), with a minimum stock size threshold (MSST) of (1-M)*SSB30%SPR, where M=0.136 is the natural mortality rate (SEDAR 2010). Reference points for black grouper in the US South Atlantic are consistent with those in the Gulf of Mexico (SEDAR 2010). Specific values are F30%SPR = 0.218, SSB30%SPR = 5.92 million pounds (2,686 t), and MSST = 5.12 million pounds (2,323 t).

CURRENT STATUS

Last updated on 21 March 2018

The 2010 black grouper stock assessment estimated a terminal year biomass of SSB2008 = 8.3 million pounds (3,765.9 t), relative to a target of SSB30%SPR = 5.92 million pounds (2,686 t), indicating that terminal year biomass exceeded the target by approximately 40% (SEDAR 2010). The estimated terminal year fishing mortality rate of F2008 = 0.108 is well below the limit reference point of F30%SPR = 0.218 (SEDAR 2010). Results of the 2010 stock assessment indicated that black grouper in the Gulf of Mexico was not overfished and overfishing was not occurring.

Trends

Last updated on 21 Mar 2018

During the late 1980s, spawning biomass declined from approximately 3.7 million pounds (1,678.8 t) in 1986 to a time series low of 3.42 million pounds (1,551.7 t) in 1990. Since then, biomass has increased steadily, exceeding 5.0 million pounds (2,268.6 t) in 2000, and 8.0 million pounds (3,629.8 t) by 2007. Spawning biomass in 2008 is estimated at approximately 8.3 million pounds (3,765.9 t). (See SEDAR 2010 Table A3.3.4.10)

Fishing mortality for fully recruited fish (age 5) exceeded F = 0.25 in the early years of the assessment, but dropped below F = 0.2 by 1990. During the 1990s, fishing mortality fluctuated without trend between roughly 0.15 – 0.20. In 1999, F declined again, and remained below F = 0.10 in most years between 1999 and 2008. Terminal fishing mortality is estimated at F2008 = 0.108 (See SEDAR 2010 Table 3.3.4.11c).

Trends in harvest levels (commercial and recreational) show similar patterns as fishing mortality. Landings in excess of one million pounds (453.7 t) in the early years of the assessment dropped significantly in 1988, fluctuating between approximately 400,000 and 650,000 pounds (181.5 - 294.9 t) for most of the next decade (NMFS 2017)(NMFS 2017). In 1999, landings dropped again, averaging 300,000 pounds (272.2 t) between 1999 and 2008. Harvest for both sectors in 2008 was 217,417 pounds (98.6 t). The proportion of total harvest attributed to the commercial fishery has fluctuated between approximately 20% and 80% over this time period, due largely to high variability in estimated recreational harvest. From 1999 to 2006, the proportion was relatively stable, with roughly 40-55% of annual harvest attributed to the commercial fishery, but this dropped to 36% and 23% in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

2.MANAGEMENT QUALITY

MANAGEMENT

Last updated on 5 January 2018

Recovery Plans

Last updated on 05 Jan 2018

The 2010 stock assessment indicated black grouper are not overfished, so no recovery plan is required. Harvest levels for the shallow water grouper complex have been below established targets since 2004 in the Gulf of Mexico, and since 2012 in the US South Atlantic. No specific rebuilding plan is in place, but each region's Generic ACL/AM amendment includes accountability measures for all managed stocks to minimize overfishing and allow overfished stocks to rebuild (GMFMC 2011) (SAFMC 2011).

US Gulf of Mexico

Last updated on 5 January 2018

In the Gulf of Mexico, black grouper are managed by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (GMFMC) Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan (FMP). No specific guidance is provided for commercial harvest levels of black grouper as a species. The GMFMC manages black grouper as part of the “shallow water grouper” complex (GMFMC 2011). An individual fishing quota (IFQ) program was implemented for the species complex in 2009 (GMFMC 2008). Other management measures for the Gulf reef fish fishery include gear and fishing location restrictions to reduce bycatch, minimum size limits to protect immature fish and commercial and recreational area closures to protect spawning groupers (GMFMC 2017).

Annual catch limits (ACL) for the years 2012-2016+ were established in the GMFMC Generic ACL/AM Amendment based on advice from the Science and Statistical Committee (GMFMC 2011). The process for setting ACLs and annual catch targets (ACT) accounts for both management and scientific uncertainty. For example, in 2015, the commercial ACL for the GMFMC shallow water grouper complex was set at 547,000 pounds gutted weight (lb gw) (248.2 t), but the ACT was set at 526,000 lb gw 238.7 t) (NMFS 2017).

COMPLIANCE
US Gulf of Mexico

Last updated on 5 January 2018

Harvester compliance has been excellent since 2004. Between 2004 and 2009, landings of the shallow water grouper complex ranged between 58% and 99% of the annual catch target (NMFS 2017). In 2010, the IFQ program was started and two of the main harvest species (red grouper and gag grouper) were removed from the complex. For 2010 and 2011, shallow water grouper harvest was approximately 45% of the target for the complex. In 2012, two more species were removed from the complex. Since then annual harvest of the shallow water grouper complex has ranged from approximately 44% to 64% of the specified catch target.

3.ENVIRONMENT AND BIODIVERSITY

BYCATCH
ETP Species

Last updated on 5 January 2018

Little information is available regarding interactions with marine mammals in the US South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico reef fish fisheries (handlines and longlines), but interactions with these species are considered to be low. No interactions were reported through the Coastal Fishery Logbook program in either region (NMFS 2013)(NMFS 2016) or the 2010-2011 Gulf of Mexico observer program (Scott-Denton et al. 2011). The 2017 List of Fisheries (NMFS 2017) indicates that snapper-grouper fisheries (hook and line and bottom longline) in the South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean collectively interact with greater than 5,000 bottlenose dolphin, but still receives a Tier III rating by NMFS for interactions with marine mammals, indicating little potential harm to the population.

US Gulf of Mexico
United States
Bottom-set longlines

Last updated on 5 January 2018

A biological opinion (BiOp) develped for the reef fish fishery under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act anticipated 116 sea turtle interactions by the bottom longline fishery over three years (GMFMC 2010), but a number of reports released in 2008-2009 using observer and other monitoring data estimated actual interactions greatly exceeded the allowable levels. For example, a report released in 2009 estimated there were 967 sea turtle interactions in the longline fishery over a 30-month period (GMFMC 2010). In response, the GMFMC adopted Amendment 31, which established a seasonal closed area (inshore of 35 fathoms from June to August) to reduce the number of sea turtle interactions in this fishery (GMFMC 2010). No formal estimate of interactions could be found, but data from the coastal fishery logbook program suggest that the measures are working. More than 25 interactions were reported through the logbook program in 2010 and 2011 (NMFS 2013), and this number declined to only 12 in 2012 and 2013 (NMFS 2016).

Other Species

Last updated on 5 January 2018

The GMFMC reef fish FMP is a multispecies FMP covering a total of 31 species, including 11 snapper species, 11 groupers, three tilefishes, four jacks, one triggerfish, and one wrasse (GMFMC 2015). The gears used in the fishery (handline and longline) are non-selective, resulting in a wide range of species in the catch.  An observer program in the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery was implemented in 2006 as a requirement of Amendment 22 to the GMFMC reef fish FMP (GMFMC 2004) (Scott-Denton et al. 2011). Several reports have been published summarizing the data collected from this program, such as catch composition, disposition, and condition (Scott-Denton and Williams 2013)(Scott-Denton et al. 2011), and updated data on catch composition for the years 2012 to 2016 were obtained (E. Scott-Denton, NMFS, pers comm). Findings from these reports are reported below.

US Gulf of Mexico
United States
Bottom-set longlines

Last updated on 5 January 2018

In the reef fish longline fishery, species covered under the reef fish FMP accounted for approximately 87.3% of the total catch (0.07% was black grouper) based on the recently obtained data (E. Scott-Denton, NMFS, pers. comm.). The remaining 13.7% was composed of 171 species, although 27 of these species were seen only once in the five years of sampling, and an additional 44 species were only seen 2 to 5 times in those years (E. Scott-Denton, NMFS, pers. comm.). Cuban dogfish and Atlantic sharpnose shark had the highest proportion of the total catch (1.6% each) for species not included in the FMP (E. Scott-Denton, NMFS, pers. comm.). Data from 2012-2016 provided for this report do not break down catch by disposition, but data from a previous report indicate that target species make up between 93.0% of retained catch and 83.1% of discarded catch (black grouper accounted for 0.08% and less than 0.01%, respectively) (Scott-Denton and Williams 2013). Landings data from the SEFSC Trip Interview Program (TIP) (L. Beerkircher, NMFS, pers. comm.) and discard data from the SEFSC Coastal Fishery Logbook program (NMFS 2016) corroborate that species in the reef fish FMP constitute the vast majority (>85%) of the harvest and discards in the longline fishery.

HABITAT

Last updated on 21 March 2018

Due to the biology and habitat preferences of the target species, these fisheries operate over, or in close proximity to, sensitive habitat such as coral reefs or outcrops and other live bottom habitats. No specific studies could be found evaluating impacts of longline and handline gear on sensitive habitiat in these management areas, but they are generally considered less severe than mobile gears.

US Gulf of Mexico

Last updated on 5 January 2018

Marine Reserves

Last updated on 05 Jan 2018

The GMFMC reef fish FMP and subsequent amendments have established management measures that protect coral and hard bottom habitats necessary to many species managed through this plan. The original FMP established a “stressed area” akin to a specialized management zone (SMZ) within which several bottom damaging gears, including fish traps and rollerhead trawls, were prohibited (GMFMC 1981). The intent of this gear restriction was to prevent further damage from these gears and allow regrowth in areas previously affected. Amendment 1 extended the boundaries of the stressed area and also implemented restrictions on the use of bottom longline gear in inshore areas (GMFMC 1989). Although the longline restrictions were not specifically intended for habitat protection, their implementation protected large areas of nearshore waters where coral and live bottom habitats are common. A regulatory amendment in 1999 created the Steamboat Lumps and Madison-Swanson marine reserves which prohibited fishing with any gear within the combined 219 sq-mi reserves (GMFMC 1999). The reserves were originally created for a limited time, but their duration was extended through Amendment 21 (GMFMC 2003), and made permanent through Amendment 30B (GMFMC 2008). Additional closed areas were established through Amendment 19 (GMFMC 2001), which developed the Tortugas Ecological Reserves and prohibited all fishing activity and anchoring within the reserves.

In addition to the habitat protection measures implemented through the reef fish FMP, a number of beneficial measures have been implemented through other means. In particular, the joint GMFMC/SAFMC Fishery Management Plan for Coral and Coral Reefs (GMFMC 1982) established three Coral habitat areas of particular concern (HAPC) within the Gulf of Mexico where fishing with certain bottom tending gear (including longlines) is prohibited. The Coral FMP also prohibits the harvest of stony corals and most gorgonian corals. Subsequent amendments to the plan also address harvest of live rock.

United States
Bottom-set longlines

Last updated on 5 January 2018

Longline gear are in contact with the substrate, which may negatively impact sensitive habitats. A system of managed areas, including habitat areas of particular concern, marine protected areas, and special management zones, have been implemented by GMFMC over the years that aim to protect sensitive hard bottom habitat from fishing impacts.

FishSource Scores

Last updated on 21 March 2018

MANAGEMENT QUALITY

As calculated for 1999 data.

The score is 7.7.

This measures the F as a percentage of the F management limit.

The F is 0.124 . The F management limit is 0.216 .

The underlying F/F management limit for this index is 57.4%.

As calculated for 2015 data.

The score is 10.0.

This measures the Set TACC as a percentage of the ABC.

The Set TACC is 0.282 ('000 t). The ABC is 0.315 ('000 t) .

The underlying Set TACC/ABC for this index is 89.4%.

As calculated for 2015 data.

The score is 10.0.

This measures the Commercial catch as a percentage of the Set TACC.

The Commercial catch is 0.184 ('000 t). The Set TACC is 0.282 ('000 t) .

The underlying Commercial catch/Set TACC for this index is 65.3%.

STOCK HEALTH:

As calculated for 2008 data.

The score is 9.6.

This measures the SSB as a percentage of the SSB30%.

The SSB is 3.76 ('000 t). The SSB30% is 2.69 ('000 t) .

The underlying SSB/SSB30% for this index is 140%.

As calculated for 2008 data.

The score is 10.0.

This measures the F as a percentage of the F management limit.

The F is 0.108 . The F management limit is 0.216 .

The underlying F/F management limit for this index is 50.0%.

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No data available for recruitment
No data available for recruitment
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DATA NOTES
  • Catch target and limit and stock biomass target and limit are reported in units of thousand metric tons (ton or t)
  • In the US South Atlantic, the commercial black grouper harvest is managed individually, but in the Gulf of Mexico it is managed as part of a multispecies complex. TACC and total catches presente here results of this combination (black grouper in US SOuth Atlantic+multispecies complex in Gulf of Mexico)
  • Catch target is the ABC for combined commercial and recreational catch in both the Gulf of Mexico and US South Atlantic region.
  • Biological reference point values are taken from SEDAR 19, Section 6, page 10 (SEDAR 2010)
  • SSB and F time series are taken from SEDAR 19, Table A3.3.4.10 (SSB) and Table A3.3.4.11c, age 5 (F) (SEDAR 2010)
  • Biomass target reference point is defined as SSB30%SPR.
US Gulf of Mexico

Last updated on 5 January 2018

Catch limit and observed landings are reprted in units of thousand tons.

Catch limit is the combined ACT for the GMFMC Shallow Water Grouper species complex for the commercial sector only (NMFS 2017).

Fishery removals are reported as commercial landings of all species in the GMFMC Shallow Water Grouper species complex (NMFS 2017).

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Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs)

No related FIPs

Certifications

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

No related MSC certifications

Sources

Credits
  1. SouthEast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR), 2010. Stock Assessment Report 19, Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Black Grouper, Southeast Fihseries Science Center, 661 p.http://www.sefsc.noaa.gov/sedar/download/Black_SAR_FINAL.pdf?id=DOCUMENT
References

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    Black grouper - Northern Gulf of Mexico and NW Atlantic southern, US Gulf of Mexico, United States, Bottom-set longlines

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