Efficient equipment: Assessing research methods for studying red snapper on Florida’s east coast

fish in trap
Scientists retrieve a chevron trap that has collected a number of fish. The data will give researchers a direct estimate of size-selectivity of fishery-independent gears and allow them to explore whether chevron traps select against older and larger red snapper.

Scientists from FWRI are conducting a one-year study off the east coast of Florida to examine the selectivity of fishery-independent sampling gears for red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) and other reef fishes in the U.S. South Atlantic. The geographical location of the study is from Melbourne, FL to the Florida-Georgia border in water depths less than 150 meters. Researchers are deploying underwater stereoscopic video cameras in conjunction with hooked-gear and chevron traps. The stereoscopic video cameras, along with specialized software, allow scientists to determine the size structure of red snapper in their natural habitat without having to collect them. The size structure of the hooked-gear and chevron trap catches will then be compared with the size structure seen on the video cameras. This information will allow researchers to determine the effectiveness of various sampling gears at collecting different size ranges of fish and will provide the first direct assessment of size-selectivity for red snapper and other reef fishes in the U.S. South Atlantic. Although the focus of the project is on red snapper, researchers anticipate providing gear-specific selectivity estimates for a variety of other managed reef fishes. As such, project results will be shared with NOAA researchers and analysts and are expected to have a direct and immediate impact on the assessment of numerous managed reef fishes in the region. This project is one of several recent federally-funded grant surveys completed by FWRI focused on red snapper along the east coast of Florida. Researchers are continually working to secure future funding to keep collecting important reef fish data in the U.S. South Atlantic.