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In the U.S. Gulf of Mexico (GOM), red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) are managed as a unit stock, although the stock is assessed as subunits east and west of the Mississippi River. Differences were examined between management subunits by comparison of the size and age structure and growth rates of red snapper among recreational catches from 6 regions of the GOM: South Texas, North Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Northwest Florida, and Central Florida. In all of these regions, red snapper sampled in 2009 and 2010 were small and predominantly from age classes that represented the strong recruitment for the year classes of 2004-06. As such, our data indicate a highly truncated age structure with few fish older than 6 years. Demographic differences in size, age, and growth parameters were found. Small (550 ram in total length), fast-growing individuals dominated the catches in South Texas and the regions of Florida, whereas larger, slower-growing fish represented the majority of catches in Alabama and Louisiana. The potential mechanisms affecting observed demographic variation include environmental differences, fishing pressure, habitat preference, and management regimes; however, no definitive conclusion about cause and effect can be made. The combination of demographic differences between regions and consistent occurrence of the strong year classes GOM-wide supports recent conclusions that red snapper form a metapopulation of semi-isolated assemblages in the GOM.


Originally published in Fishery Bulletin.



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