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    Ballyhoo, Hemiramphus brasiliensis and balao, H. balao

    Ballyhoo and balao occur in the western Atlantic from at least New York south to
    southeastern Brazil, but the only significant fishery for either species operates in southeastern
    Florida waters (McBride 2001). Both species mature during their first year at about 6.9–7.9"
    fork length (FL) (Berkeley and Houde 1978). Spawning occurs between March and April and
    July off south Florida. Batch fecundity of both species is quite low, averaging about 1,500 eggs
    for ballyhoo and 5,000 eggs for balao. Eggs of ballyhoo and, presumably, balao attach to
    floating blades of seagrasses. Larvae also develop in proximity to floating seagrasses. Both
    species grow rapidly, and females grow more quickly than males. Mean fork lengths for
    combined-sex samples were 8.5–9.0” at age 1 for ballyhoo

    Ballyhoo primarily consume copepods, siphonophores, sea grass, and decapods; balao
    consume mostly polychaetes, decapods, copepods, and siphonophores (Berkeley et al. 1975).
    Key predators reported for ballyhoo are sea birds (Anous stolidus and Sterna fuscata) (Hensley
    and Hensley 1995) and large coastal pelagic species (e.g., Scombridae; Randall 1967).
    Lampara-net fishers in south Florida target ballyhoo and balao. They are sold together as
    bait, marketed only as ballyhoo (McBride 2001). In 2005, the statewide landings totaled 727,974
    pounds, most of which were made by the commercial fishery (92% by weight) and on the gulf
    coast (59% of statewide total). Commercial landings were greatest in Dade, Broward, and
    Monroe counties (Fig. 1). Most recreational landings were made in southeast Florida during
    2005; most of these were probably caught for use as bait (Fig. 2). The coast-specific landings
    trends reflect, in part, changes in the location of the fishery, which moved from southeast Florida
    (Atlantic) to Monroe county in southwest Florida (gulf) beginning in the early 1990s (McBride
    et al. 1996). The 2005 total landings were 30% lower than the average landings in the previous
    five years (2000–2004) and were 31% lower than the historical average landings (1982–2005)

    (Fig3). Statewide commercial landings were reported to be about 360,000 pounds during 1976—
    1981, when commercial landings statistics in Florida were collected primarily from seafood
    dealers handling food fish (McBride et al. 1996). We attribute the 1985–1986 increase observed
    in Atlantic landings (Fig. 3) to a more thorough census of commercial landings after Florida’s
    implementation of the commercial landings reporting system (Marine Resources Information
    System). Annual commercial landings increased slowly from a 1986 statewide total of about
    842,000 pounds to an average of about 1.23 million pounds during 1991–1995.
    Commercial catch rates show a significant increasing trend on the Atlantic coast after
    1997, with the mean catch rate for 2003 being higher than those of any other years since 1992
    (Fig. 4). Standardized commercial catch rates are much less on the gulf coast than on the Atlantic
    coast (Fig. 5), probably as a result of differences in the numbers of trips in which fishers
    targeting other species caught ballyhoo as by-catch. Estimates of recreational total-catch rates
    are considered too imprecise to be used as indices of abundance.
    Based on the most recent stock assessment (Mahmoudi and McBride 2002), the fishing
    mortality estimates (0.8–1.2 per year), generated using a DeLury model, were in the range of the
    estimated natural mortality rates (0.75–1.15 per year), indicating that this fishery is operating at
    or above the MSY level (fully exploited). In addition, the results from the surplus production
    model showed that the total F has generally been at or above the FMSY through most of the 1990s,
    and this may have kept the biomass below the BMSY level in recent years. Mahmoudi and McBride
    (2002) conclude that given the extent of the recruitment variability and the market demand for
    halfbeaks, the fishing mortality during 2002 could have been even higher than the 2000/01
    estimate, exceeding the FMSY level even further and reducing the population biomass to lower
    levels. To control fishing effort in the ballyhoo fishery, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation
    Commission adopted several management regulations in 2003 limiting daily commercial catch,
    closing the commercial fishery during the month of August, and enacting a five-year moratorium
    on lampera-net endorsements.
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Status and Trends 2007 Report
Florida’s Inshore and Nearshore Species
by Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
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