Movement Patterns and Discard Mortality of Cobia in the Gulf of Mexico
Cobia (Rachycentron canadum) is a coastal migratory pelagic (open ocean) species managed jointly by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (authority delegated by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council). Cobia support a popular recreational fishery but are also captured in commercial fisheries and as bycatch in shrimp fisheries along the U. S. Atlantic coast and throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
Despite the species’ popularity as a sportfish, few stock assessments have been conducted, and only recently has Cobia been assessed through the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review process. The most recent assessment for cobia in the Gulf migratory group was conducted in 2012. Although this assessment did not suggest overfished status or that overfishing was occurring, confidence in the assessment was low, and management advice was greatly hindered by severe data gaps. Deficiencies regarding stock structure, life history, movement patterns, and post-release survival contributed toward high uncertainty in the assessment. For example, the southern boundary of the Gulf stock, particularly with respect to Mexican and Texas waters, is unknown.
Currently, no studies of mixing exist in the western Gulf. This has significant implications for management, especially if the degree of mixing between the U.S. Gulf and Mexican waters is high. Thus, there remains a substantial need to better understand the stock structure and how seasonal movements may influence the distribution of fishing effort and mortality, which is critical to inform future management.
Visit the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation to learn more about this study and how researchers are teaming up with citizen scientists to examine Cobia movement patterns using satellite technology.