RESEARCH ARTICLE


Evolving Fisheries: Today`s Bycatch is Tomorrow`s Target Catch - Escolar (Lepidocybium flavobrunneum) Catch in the U.S. Pelagic Longline Fishery



Juan C. Levesque*
Geo-Marine, Inc., Environmental Resources Division, Marine Science Department, 2201 Avenue K, Suite A2, Plano, Texas 75074, USA.


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© 2010 Juan C. Levesque

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode). This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Geo-Marine, Inc., Environmental Resources Division, Marine Science Department, 2201 Avenue K, Suite A2, Plano, Texas 75074, USA; Tel: 972-423-5480; Fax: 972-422-2736; E-mail: jlevesque@geo-marine.com


Abstract

Wildlife and fisheries management are based upon economics: the law of supply and demand controls the direction of commercial fisheries. In the U.S. pelagic longline fishery, one example of a bycatch species that has received little research attention because of its lower economic value is the escolar (Lepidocybium flavobrunneum). Given its importance as a secondary market species, the main objectives of this paper are to provide information on fishing characteristics, relative abundance, distribution, and size composition of escolar catch in the U.S. pelagic longline fishery operating in the western North Atlantic. The overarching goal is to emphasize the importance of evaluating, managing, and conserving lower-valued species. Findings show that escolar nominal catches significantly vary by geographical area, month, and year. Most escolar are caught in the Gulf of Mexico and off the Florida East Coast (FEC), but mean catch rates are greatest in the FEC and Sargasso Sea. Escolar catch rates are greatest in April, November, and December. Overall, escolar catch rates are stable, which suggests that overfishing is not occurring in this part of the Atlantic.

Keywords: Commercial fisheries, ecosystem management, mesopelagic, secondary species, underutilized species, western North Atlantic Ocean.