Assessing Status and Trends of Florida's Halfbeak....
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GRANT NUMBER: NA77FD0069           NMFS NUMBER: 96-SER-027

REPORT TITLE: Assessing Status and Trends of Florida’s Halfbeak Fishery

AUTHOR: Richard McBride

PUBLISH DATE: September 14, 1999

AVAILABLE FROM: National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Region, 9721 Executive Center Drive, N., St Petersburg, FL 33702.   TELEPHONE:  (813) 570-5324


The south Florida halfbeak fishery targets two species, ballyhoo (Hemiramphus brasiliensis) and balao (H. balao), which are sold as bait. Increased landings during the early 1990s created concern about the trend for this fishery. Data from Florida’s fishery reporting system, special observations of the fishery, and fishery-independent collections were examined to assess the status and trends of this fishery. Landings have been relatively stable since 1986 at about 1 million pounds annually, and the fishery is valued at ore than $0.5 million annually. A temporary rise in landings during the early 1990s occurred in association with the proportional increase in landings and effort in Monroe County. This expansion appears to be largely because of the development of halfbeak fishing in Florida Bay. During this same period declines in landings and effort occurred in Palm Beach County, due to implementation of Florida’s net ban referendum. Total fishing effort has been low in recent years, compared to the late 1980s, but this appears to be caused by poor weather. Fishing effort is likely to return to more than 1000 vessel-days for years of average or better weather, and this should not cause concern by itself. Catch rates and the ratio of ballyhoo and balao vary seasonally; catch rates are highest in the winter when ballyhoo dominate the catch. Flyingfishes (Exocoetidae) and needle fishes (Belonidae) are frequently caught incidentally in this fishery, but in general bycatch is relatively low in this fishery. The spawning grounds of halfbeak are distributed throughout the fishing grounds. Overall, the present fishery appears stable and additional regulatory options appear unnecessary at this time.

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