Date of Award

Spring 2019

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

School

Ocean Science and Engineering

Committee Chair

Dr. Robert Leaf

Committee Chair School

Ocean Science and Engineering

Committee Member 2

Dr. Wei Wu

Committee Member 2 School

Ocean Science and Engineering

Committee Member 3

Dr. Eric Powell

Committee Member 3 School

Ocean Science and Engineering

Abstract

Spotted Seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus) receive considerable fishing pressure as the most popular saltwater target species in the north-central Gulf of Mexico. The potential for alternate management strategies, including stock enhancement and reducing discard mortality, to support the sustainability of the stocks and the desires of stakeholders is unknown. The purpose of this study was to provide an objective evaluation of the efficacy of alternate management strategies for Spotted Seatrout in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. I used a management strategy evaluation (MSE) to measure the performance of 18 alternate management scenarios relative to control scenarios. Scenarios with a high hatchery input exhibited the highest expected benefit to the stock and fishery in each state; reducing discard mortality had a substantially lesser predicted effect. MSE model results indicated that the expected outcome of alternate management strategies was highly variable by state in the north-central Gulf of Mexico. Characteristics of the stock and fishery in the three states provided information to describe the observed geographic variability in MSE model results. States with a large stock size such as Louisiana exhibited the lowest potential benefit from the management alternatives evaluated. Key fishery characteristics included the proportion of fishing mortality due to discarding, and the minimum length limit imposed by managers. Results from this study provide insights regarding the optimal management of Spotted Seatrout in the north-central Gulf of Mexico.

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