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

Characterization of Swordfish Buoy Gear Catches in the Florida Straits

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30th Annual Meeting of the Florida Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, Altoona, Florida, February 16-18, 2010

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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 has been closed to 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 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 compared swordfish catch and bycatch rates between 56 sets of contemporary SBG field data and historical PLL observer data from the FEC. Catch was dominated by swordfish (91.4%), followed by sharks (6.9%). Analyses show higher swordfish catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) for SBG vs. PLL (202.4 to 31.8 per 1000 hooks) and much lower bycatch rates for SBG, including no istiophorid billfish, marine mammal, or sea turtle bycatch during the 56 experimental sets. These data indicate that SBG is a cleaner and more efficient commercial fishery for swordfish in this area when compared to PLL. Additional work using small temperature-depth recorders (TDRs) indicate that the actual fishing depths (57.3 m ± 19.2 m) were much shallower than the predicted depths (71.7 m ± 23.7 m). On-going depth modeling work with TDR data is described.

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