ASFMC Proposes Changes to Atlantic Croaker FMP

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s South Atlantic State/Federal Fisheries Management Board has approved Draft Addendum I to Amendment I to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Croaker for public comment. The Draft Addendum proposes two changes to the Atlantic croaker management program: (1) changing the management unit to one region (New Jersey to the east coast of Florida), and (2) modifying the biological reference points used to assess stock condition.

Both proposed measures stem from the recommendations of the 2010 benchmark assessment, which indicates that Atlantic croaker is not experiencing overfishing. Based on the findings of the assessment, Atlantic croaker is now considered to be a single stock on the Atlantic coast.

The previous stock assessment, which formed the basis of Amendment 1, divided the stock into Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic regions due to difficulty assessing the resource as a single unit. The 2010 assessment used data from both regions to produce a single, coastwide assessment. Draft Addendum I proposes adopting the single stock unit to be consistent with the current science on Atlantic croaker.

Draft Addendum I also proposes modifying the biological reference points (BRPs) used to assess stock condition since the results of the 2010 assessment cannot be compared to the Amendment 1 BRPs, which are specific to the Mid-Atlantic region only. The proposed BRPs are very similar to those in Amendment 1. They use the same definitions for the targets and thresholds (e.g., fishing mortality rate threshold = FMSY), but they differ in that absolute estimates of spawning stock biomass (SSB) and fishing mortality (F) are not estimated.

Estimates are not given because of uncertainty in the assessment resulting from inadequate data on the magnitude of croaker discards in the South Atlantic shrimp trawl fishery. The determination of stock status is thus based on the ratios of F and SSB to their respective target and threshold. The proposed targets and thresholds are:

F target = 0.75*FMSY                        SSB target = SSBMSY
F threshold = FMSY                        SSB threshold = 0.70*SSBMSY

Under the proposal, if F/FMSY is greater than 1, then overfishing is occurring. If SSB/(0.70*SSBMSY) is less than 1, the stock is overfished. In other words, F must be lower than its threshold, and SSB must be higher than its threshold, or the stock will be considered to be experiencing overfishing or be in an overfished condition, respectively. The targets would still represent the levels that management measures are designed to achieve.

Fishermen and other interested groups are encouraged to provide input on the Draft Addendum through written comment. The Draft Addendum can be obtained via the Commission’s website at under Breaking News or by contacting the Commission at 703.842.0740.

Public comment will be accepted until 5:00 PM (EST) on January 31, 2011 and should be forwarded to Robert Beal, ISFMP Director, 1050 N. Highland Street, Suite 200A-N, Arlington, VA 22201-2196; 703.842.0741 (FAX) or at (Subject line: Atlantic Croaker).

source: ASMFC press release