Environmental Factors – Predation – MS 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.

Sport fish Predation

92RedDrum_Added1_900Blue 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). In the 1980s, due to population concerns, many Gulf States prohibited commercial harvest of red drum and increasingly limited harvest of spotted sea trout. Possession and retention of red drum in federal waters, either recreationally or commercially was also prohibited. These regulatory changes have led to increased sport fish populations throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Mississippi is the only state to have commercial red drum and spotted sea trout fisheries. Harvest is relatively small. In 2013, approximately 37, 000 pounds of red drum and 51, 000 pounds of sea trout were landed in Mississippi State Waters (NOAA Office of Science and Technology (OST)– Commercial Landings).

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 Mississippi state waters, though some fishermen do install them in trawls (Burrage 2002). Commercial shrimp fishermen can keep up to 25 pounds of the following species for personal use if caught in a shrimp trawl: white trout, croaker, black drum, mullet, sheepshead, gafftopsail catfish, and flounders (MS Reg. Title 22 Part 7).and Alabama shrimp fishermen are allowed to retain these bycatch species, among others,  within recreational limits.


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