A new study by scientists from the University of Miami’s (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science has found concrete evidence that more than 85% of groupers and snappers studied are overfished as a direct result of increased human demand for seafood.
The research team analyzed 30 years of population data for 15 coral reef fish species central to South Florida’s commercial and recreational fisheries using their length-based risk analysis framework. (LBRA).
They found that three of five grouper species, all eight snapper species and two grunts analyzed were below the minimum spawning potential rate of 40%, a regulation necessary to maintain fish populations.
For black grouper, increasing the current minimum catch size from 24 inches (61 cm) to 44 inches (110 cm) would increase the spawning population to 40 percent, large enough to produce significant numbers of new juveniles. It would take about 10 years for the population to recover to a point where it would be minimally sustainable, and 22 years to reach equilibrium where a sustainable harvest would become possible.
“The situation is analogous to your bank account,” said the study’s lead author, Jerald Ault, professor of environmental science and policy at UM Rosenstiel School. “That is, without a significant account balance, in this case fish in the water, you cannot get significant interest – a significant number of large fish to catch, but also to spawn and rebuild the reef.”
The study, “Length-based risk analysis of management options for the south Florida USA multispecies coral reef fishfishing”, published in the journal Fisheries researchprovides a plan to effectively balance fish production – how much fish is taken from the sea – to reduce overfishing and protect these valuable fish populations now and in the future.
The study was supported by NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center & Coral Reef Conservation Program Grant No. NA20OAR4320064, National Park Service Natural Resource Conservation Assessment Program Grant No. P18AC01130-03, Florida RESTORE Act Center of Excellence Grant No. FIO?4710112600B , Florida Power & Light Corporation Contract No. 2000347910 and National Parks Conservation Association.
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Materials provided by University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. Original written by Diana Udel. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.