Fisheries Research, 219:1-9, Elsevier B.V., 11, 2019. Paper abstract bibtex
We estimated condition-specific survival rates of gray triggerfish (Balistes capriscus) using a tag-recapture approach and extrapolated these values to produce an overall discard survival estimate for the US South Atlantic recreational hook-and-line fishery. Tag return rates of fish tagged at the seafloor using SCUBA served as a reference for return rates of fish tagged at the surface. We examined the validity of gross necropsy as a proxy for survival by identifying likely causes of discard mortality. Best-condition surface-released fish (no external trauma) had an estimated mean proportional survival of 0.39 (95% confidence interval 0.28, 0.55). For gray triggerfish exhibiting visible trauma, estimated survival was 0.24 (0.10, 0.60). Floating fish had a survival rate of zero. The necropsy-based estimate of gray triggerfish lacking organ displacement closely matched the tag-based estimate of survival. Mean estimated discard survival across all depths for North Carolina was 0.35 (0.10, 0.59) and for Florida was 0.34 (0.08, 0.59). These results have implications for gray triggerfish management because our estimate of discard survival is substantially lower than previously assumed and for future discard survival research given our findings with gross necropsies.