Environmental Factors – Predation – AL Blue Crab


Blue crabs are a common prey item for many species of finfish including red drum (Sciaenops ocella­tus), spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus), black drum (Pogonias cromis), Atlantic croaker (Microp­ogonias undulatus), gafftopsail catfish (Bagre marinus), and hardhead catfish (Ariopsis felis) (VanderKooy 2013). Recent population increases of many of these species due to restrictions on fishing activities and reductions in finfish bycatch could have potential impacts on blue crab abundance.

Game fish Predation

92RedDrum_Added1_900In the past, due to population concerns of some finfish species, red drum and spotted seatrout have been declared game fish species, and commercial fishing for these species is closed in Alabama wa­ters. Possession and retention of red drum in federal waters was also prohibited in the 1980s. Many Gulf States implemented similar rules that banned commercial harvest of red drum and spotted seatrout and created seasons and slot limits for the recreational fisheries. These regulatory changes have led to increased game fish populations throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Blue crabs are a large part of a red drum’s diet; a study found that blue crab comprised 37% of total red drum diet by weight, and ranked over 13 times greater in relative importance than the next-ranked species (Guillory and Prejean 2001).

Other Finfish Predation

Atlantic croaker, gafftopsail catfish, and hardhead catfish are common bycatch species in the com­mercial shrimp trawl fishery; however, recent studies indicate that regulations requiring bycatch re­duction devices (BRDs) in shrimp trawls combined with a reduction in shrimp trawl effort have led to population increases for these species (Raborn, Callaway, and Cole 2014). BRDs are not required in Alabama state waters, and Alabama shrimp fishermen are allowed to retain these bycatch species, among others,
within recreational limits.


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