The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) recently released its 2016 Weakfish Benchmark Stock Assessment and Peer Review Report. The assessment indicates that weakfish is depleted and has been for the past 13 years.
The assessment indicates some positive signs in the weakfish stock in the most recent years, with a slight increase in spawning stock biomass (SSB) and total abundance, although the stock is still well below the SSB threshold.
The assessment indicates natural mortality (e.g., the rate at which fish die because of natural causes such as predation, disease, starvation) has been increasing since the mid-1990s, from approximately 0.16 in the early 1980s to an average of 0.93 from 2007-2014.
The assessment concludes that, even though fishing mortality has been at low levels in recent years, the weakfish population has been experiencing very high levels of total mortality (which includes fishing mortality and natural mortality), preventing the stock from recovering.
Weakfish commercial landings have dramatically declined since the early 1980s, dropping from over 19 million pounds landed in 1982 to roughly 200,000 pounds in 2014. The majority of commercial landings are by gillnet fishermen in North Carolina and Virginia.
The recreational fishery has declined from over 11 million pounds in 1983 to roughly 77,000 pounds in 2014. Recreational harvest has been dominated by New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. In the Chesapeake Bay, weakfish are also known as gray trout.
For more information, visit the ASMFC website (www.asmfc.org).
source: Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission