Do hurricanes and other severe weather events affect catch per unit effort of reef-fish in the Florida Keys?
Rios, Adyan Beatriz
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Severe weather events frequently affect important marine fish stocks and fisheries along the United States Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts. However, the effects of these events on fish and fisheries are not well understood. The availability of self-reported data from two fisheries in a region frequently affected by tropical cyclones provided a unique opportunity to investigate short-term responses to past events. This study involved selecting severe weather events, calculating changes in effort and catch-per-unit- effort (CPUE), and analyzing those changes across various temporal, spatial, and species-specific scenarios. Responses in each variable were analyzed within and across scenario factors and explored for correlations and linear multivariate relationships with hypothesized explanatory variables. A negative overall directional change was identified for logbook fishing effort. Based on both correlations and linear models, changes in logbook fishing effort were inversely related to changes in average maximum wind speed. Severe weather events are more likely to affect fishing effort than catch rates of reef-fish species. However, lack of responses in CPUE may also relate to the ability of this study to detect changes. The temporal and spatial scales analyzed in this study may not have been adequate for identifying changes in effort for the headboat fishery, or in CPUE for either fishery. Although there was no region-wide response in CPUE associated with severe weather events, further research on this topic is necessary to determine if storm-induced changes in fishery data are likely strong, long-lasting, or widespread enough to influence the outcome of stock-wide assessments.
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