Yellowtail Snapper, Ocyurus chrysurus
Yellowtail snapper are tropical reef fish that are most abundant in the Bahamas, south
Florida, and in the Caribbean Sea. Off Cuba, spawning occurs in deepwater during March
through August (Piedra 1969). Yellowtail snapper grow to 5.4 inches fork length (FL) at age
1 and can reach about 16.9 inches at age 14 (Table 1; Johnson 1983). Females attain
sexual maturity between 11.4 inches and 12.2 inches FL. These lengths correspond to
average lengths found for 3–4 year-old yellowtail snapper (Johnson 1983).
Juvenile yellowtail snapper feed primarily on benthic invertebrates, crustaceans, and
detritus. Adults most frequently eat crabs, fish eggs and larvae, jellyfish, and juvenile
fishes (Randall 1967).
The 2005 Florida landings of yellowtail snapper were 1,806,90 pounds. Seventy-five
percent of the statewide landings came from the gulf coast. The commercial fishery
accounted for 73% of the statewide yellowtail snapper landings in 2005. Both commercial
and recreational fisheries are centered in south Florida (Figs. 1, 2).
The distribution of landings between commercial and recreational fishers has changed
from being fairly evenly distributed during 1982–1992 to one dominated by commercial
landings during 1993–2005.
The 2005 total landings of yellowtail snapper were 2% lower than the average landings in
the previous five years (2000-2004) and were 20% lower than the 1982–2005 historical
average landings (Fig. 3). Between 1982 and 2000, total landings on the Atlantic coast
fluctuated without trend, with the 2000 landings at about 267,000 pounds (Fig. 3).
Landings from 2001-2003 on the Atlantic coast have been lower, averaging about 167,000
pounds, however landings since 2003 have been increasing to about 451,000 pounds in
2005. Gulf coast landings increased to a nearly 3.5 million pound peak in 1991, dropped
to about 1.7 million pounds in 1996, and have been fluctuating around about 1.8 million
pounds since. In 2005, total landings on the gulf were 1.4 million pounds (Fig. 3).
Commercial catch rates showed somewhat similar trends on both coasts, starting at a
plateau in 1993, declining until 1996 or 1997, increasing through 1999 then holding steady
through 2005, however, there is a slight drop in catch rates for 2004 and 2005 on the
Atlantic coast (Figs. 4, 5).
Total recreational catch rates for anglers fishing for yellowtail snapper were lower on the
Atlantic coast than they were on the gulf coast. After increasing during the late 1980s and
early 1990s, rates on the Atlantic coast held steady between 1992 and 1998. Catch rates
were higher during 1999–2001 then declined through 2003, and have rebounded in 2004
and 2005 (Fig 6). Catch rates on the gulf coast have been highly variable; no consistent
pattern appeared during the time series, however catch rates have been lower than
average since 2002 (Fig. 7).
Current regulations for yellowtail snapper include a 12” total length minimum size limit in
all state and federal waters off Florida. The catch of yellowtail snapper is also limited by
the 10-snapper aggregate bag limit for recreational anglers and the licensing
requirements for commercial fishers. Huntsman et al. (1992) provided the initial stock
assessment for yellowtail snapper on the Atlantic coast; based on data through 1990. At
that time, they estimated the fishing mortality rate as 0.48 per year. The most recent
assessment (Muller et al. 2003) included age-structured assessment models that
incorporated various data on the fishery catch, effort, and relative abundance trends for
yellowtail snapper through 2001. Within a Southeast Assessment and Data Review
(SEDAR) framework the findings from the assessment analysis indicated that yellowtail
snapper were neither undergoing overfishing nor overfished. With the recommended use
of a stock-recruitment steepness parameter value of 0.8, the point estimates of maximum
sustainable yield (MSY) ranged from 941 mt to 1,366 mt taken with an Fmsy of about 0.35
per year. The base-model point estimates for the control-rule ratios used to judge
compliance with the Sustainable Fisheries Act were 0.62 and 0.65 for F2001/Fmsy and
1.06 and 1.35 for SSB2001/SSBmsy (Muller et al. 2003).
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