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Assessing Morphometric and Otolith Measurements of Red Snapper, Lutjanus campechanus, to Characterize a Recreational Headboat Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico's Exclusive Economic Zone
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As a highly targeted species, red snapper have been overfished since the 1970’s. Inadequate monitoring and reporting of discard rates impedes regulatory measures which are in place to allow red snapper populations to reach a healthy, sustainable level. This study documented the relationship between morphometric measurements and otolith analysis of red snapper caught from a recreational headboat fishing exclusively in the GOM’s EEZ of the upper Texas coast. The collected data of this research show that of the 594 red snapper caught within the sample group, 76% of the fish were discarded; analysis of the lengths of these discarded fish show that 15.5% were of regulation size (16 inches) or larger, clear evidence that high-grading is occurring. The effort for the total amount of red snapper caught by each individual angler within the sample group was measured to determine on average, approximately two red snapper were caught per person, per hour. The size distribution ranged from 16 to 32 inches with a mean total length of 21.32 inches for retained fish while discarded fish ranged from 5.5 to 22.5 inches with a mean of 14.23. Weight distribution ranged from 1.5 to 18.5 pounds with a mean of 5.81 pounds for retained fish and 0.20 to 6 pounds with a mean of 1.57 pounds for discarded fish. Age distribution ranged from 3 to 14 years of age; red snapper can live over 50 years, however relatively none (2.42%) older than 10 years were present in the sample, demonstrating a highly truncated population. Because fecundancy increases with age in females, longevity extends reproduction potential for red snapper. Management of reef fishes, and red snapper in particular, are difficult due to variances in growth rates and habitat use, complex population structure, and increasing reproduction levels with maturity. Recommendations for management include implementing an educational outreach program, reducing effort and discard rates, lowing rates of exploitation, and creating a marine reserve. Future research should address the entire Texas coast population of for-hire vessels (charter and headboats) to obtain data on discard rates and age distribution of red snapper.
Carrillo, Nicole Amber (2013). Assessing Morphometric and Otolith Measurements of Red Snapper, Lutjanus campechanus, to Characterize a Recreational Headboat Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico's Exclusive Economic Zone. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from