Gray triggerfish, Balistes capriscus
Triggerfishes are open water or structure-associated fishes with an enlarged first dorsal
spine that can be locked in the upright position. The gray triggerfish, Balistes capriscus,
supports important fisheries in Florida, as, to a lesser extent, does the queen triggerfish,
Gray triggerfish are found in tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic Ocean. In the
western Atlantic, they range from Massachusetts south to Brazil. Spawning occurs during
the summer months. Females deposit demersal eggs and may guard their nests.
Females get larger and live longer than males (Manooch 1984). Overall, growth is to 8.9–
11.7 inches fork length (FL) at age 2; triggerfish grow as large as 17.6–22.0 inches by age
10 (Table 1; Johnson and Saloman 1984; Hood and Johnson 1997).
Total annual triggerfish landings in Florida were 686,520 pounds in 2005. Landings were
greater on the gulf coast (60% of statewide total) and mostly by recreational fishers (77% of
statewide landings by weight). Commercial landings were highest in Duval and St. Johns
Counties on the Atlantic coast and in Escambia, Okaloosa, Bay, and Franklin Counties on
the gulf coast (Fig. 1). Recreational landings in 2005 were highest in the western
Panhandle region (Fig. 2). The 2005 total landings of triggerfish were 18% higher than the
average landings in the previous five years (2000-2004) and were 26% lower than the
1982–2005 historical average landings (Fig. 3). Total annual landings of triggerfishes on
the Atlantic coast decreased from about 306,000 pounds in 1989 to only about 87,000
pounds in 2000 (Fig. 3). Gulf coast landings have shown a more precipitous drop from 2.0
million pounds in 1991 to 0.2 million pounds in 2000. Landings on each coast have
rebounded somewhat since 2000.
Commercial catch rates on both coasts showed that catch rates steadily declined between
the early 1990s and 2000 before rebounding on the Atlantic and gulf coasts (Figs. 4, 5).
Catch rates for anglers catching or fishing for triggerfishes is much more variable and did
not show a discernable long-term trend on either coast during the period 1982–2001 (Figs.
6, 7). However, the short-term increase in recreational catch rates on the gulf coast since
2000 is similar to that seen for the commercial catch rates through 2003, since then catch
rates have declined in 2004 and 2005.
SEDAR 9 (2006) conducted a recent assessment of gray triggerfish in the Gulf of
Mexico, and using SPR and MSY benchmarks, concluding that the Gulf of Mexico gray
triggerfish was overfished and experiencing overfishing. The F2004 greatly exceeded the
maximum fishing mortality threshold (F2004/FMSY = 2.05) indicating the stock was
experiencing overfishing. Similarly, the spawning stock biomass was well below the
minimum spawning stock biomass threshold (SSB2004/SSBMSY = 0.39) indicating that
the stock was overfished. The panel indicated that it would take major reductions (40-50%)
in fishing mortality rates to rebuild the Gulf of Mexico gray triggerfish stock within ten years.
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|Status and Trends 2007 Report
Florida’s Inshore and Nearshore Species
by Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute