Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures


Characterization of Swordfish Buoy Gear Catches in the Florida Straits

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59th Annual Tuna and Billfish Conference, Lake Arrowhead, California, May 19-22, 2008

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Swordfish buoy gear (SBG) is a relatively new commercial fishery located off the eastern and southern coasts of Florida that began in 2002. The area targeted by this fishery, part of the Florida East Coast statistical area (FEC), has been closed to commercial pelagic longline gear (PLL) since 2001. Swordfish buoy gear has largely taken the place of PLL as a commercial fishery for swordfish (Xiphias gladius) within the FEC. Conceptually, SBG is similar to a vertical longline, with free-floating individual buoys and “high-flyers” connected to approximately 100 meters of monofilament with one or two hooks constituting one “buoy.” Most vessels currently using this gear are fishing approximately 10 “buoys” simultaneously. Due to the way each individual “buoy” drifts independently with the current, SBG is considered to fish more like PLL than the former NMFS classification of the “handgear” gear type. This study qualitatively compares swordfish catch rates, bycatch rates, and time on hook between contemporary SBG field data and historical PLL observer data from the FEC. Initial analysis shows higher CPUE for SBG vs. PLL (92.2 to 31.8 per 1000 hooks), lower bycatch rates (12.2 to 21.6 per 1000 hooks), and lower average time on hook (2:15 to 6:59). Initial conclusions show that SBG is a cleaner and more efficient commercial fishery for swordfish in this area when compared to PLL.



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