Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Labridae

Scientific Name: Tautoga onitis
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Name(s):
English Black-fish, Tautog
French Matote noire, Tautogue noir
Labrus onitis Linnaeus, 1758

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2bd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2008-07-12
Assessor(s): Choat, J.H. & Pollard, D.
Reviewer(s): Sadovy, Y. & Liu, M.
This species is a large, relatively long-lived temperate water labrid with a restricted geographic range. It has been subject to an intense, recorded recreational fishery between 1982 and 2005, during which there has been substantial declines in catch and the estimated spawning biomass. In a comprehensive assessment of the Tautog fishery of the north-eastern American states (ASMFC Fisheries Focus 2006), fisheries investigations suggest that overfishing is occurring on a coastwide basis. Fisheries data from 1984 to 2003 indicated a decrease in population of 50-73% in the southern portion of its range, although declines in the northern (Canadian) portion of its range are not known. Therefore, the overall population is estimated to have declined of at least 40% over three generation lengths (45 years) reaching the threshold for Vulnerable under Criterion A. For most such larger coastal species living near high population centres, the improvements in fish-finding and navigational electronics means the catch rates are going to increase, and therefore the declines may also continue. The catches are very high compared to the similar sized Australian wrasses of the genus Achoerodus, and the CPUE seems to be declining. Very little information is available on the reproductive behaviour of this species and there is a shortage of demographic information from the species northern range. More reseach on this species' ecology and harvest is recommended.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species is found from South Carolina, USA to Nova scotia, Canada. It is most abundant from Cape Cod to Chesapeake Bay.
Countries occurrence:
Canada; United States
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – northwest; Atlantic – western central
Lower depth limit (metres): 75
Upper depth limit (metres): 1
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: A very good set of catch and fishery statistics is available for this species, but most of the data are fishery dependent. Peak abundance from fisheries estimate 40,000,000 individuals in 1982 and 20,000,000 in 2003 (ASMFC 2006). Therefore, over the past 24-30 years there has been a decline of 50% of the estimated population.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species has many of the same biological features as the Achoerodus species. It is fairly long-lived in the south and there is a possibility that nothern populations are even longer lived still but there is no available demographic data from northern populations (J.H. Choat pers comm. 2008).

There is little field based biological information available especially concerning spawning and reproductive behavior despite the amount of effort put into the catch and fishery statistics of this species (J.H. Choat pers comm. 2008).

This species inhabits shallow water in the summer but migrates to deeper water (25-40 m) when temperatures fall below 10°C. Adults are usually associated with reefs and manmade structures (Arendt et al. 2001). Adult males are territorial and active during the day to feed and rest in crevices at night. Newly settled individuals and small juveniles occur in estuaries (Dorf and Powell 1997). Juveniles are found in seagrass or algal beds (Bigelow and Schroeder 2001). This species undergoes seasonal migrations (Olla et al. 1974)

Maximum size is 94 cm (TL) and 11.4 kg. Maximum age is 34 years, age at female maturity is 3-4 yrs and size 14-25 cm (White et al. 2003). This species is slow growing (Hottstetter and Munroe 1993). More recent work suggests that growth rates maybe higher in the far southern end of the range but that work has yet to be peer reviewed ASMFC (2006). Few age estimates from the northern range of this species.

Species is a gonochoristic (Cooper et al. 1997, LaPlant and Schultz 2007), serial spawner, with up to 58 spawnings per season (White 1996), peak spawning is from May to June. Spawning was noted in June-July in Canadian waters, but appears more protracted (April-July) in coastal waters of Virginia, USA. It feeds mainly on mussels, gastropods, other molluscs and crustaceans. This species has gained popularity as a prized food and sport fish (Leim and Scott 1966, Hostetter 1993, Arendt et al. 2001). Investigation on the diel and seasonal activity patterns of the adult tautog in its southern range were conducted using ultrasonic telemetry (Arendt et al. 2001). It spawns in groups or in pairs. Pairing occurs between females and size-dominant males exhibiting strong territoriality and performing a protracted courtship (Hostetter and Munroe 1993). There is no histological evidence yet to prove or disprove the occurrence of hermaphroditism in this species.
Systems: Marine
Generation Length (years): 15

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The tautog fishery is primarily recreational, extending from Maine to Virginia, with the majority of landings occurring in state waters between Cape Cod and Chesapeake Bay. The total catch for the recreational fishery in 2004 was estimated at 1,721 metric tons and 1,111,000 individuals. Recreational fisheries are mainly line based and occur through shore, small boat and charter boat fishing. A comprehensive analysis of the fishery over the full species range (ASMFC Fisheries Focus 2006) provided harvest estimates of 4,201,575 kg (recreational) and 498,951 kg (commercial) from 1988, falling to 1,698,750kg (recreational) and 226,796 kg (commercial in 2004).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The Tautog has been subject to an intensive fishery over the last two decades (ASMFC Fishery Focus 2006) of which recreational fishing accounts for 90% of recorded landings. Over this time recreational landings in the Atlantic United States have declined from a peak of 4,201,575 kg in 1988 to 1,698,750 kg in 2004, a reduction of 60% in recorded landings (ASMFC Fishery Focus 2006), with effort assumed to be at least constant. Declines in the northern (Canadian) portion of its range are not known.

Despite the development of a live fish trade element, the commercial fishery returns have remained stable and increases in fishing mortality are attributable to the recreational fishery. An intensive stock assessment (ASMFC 2006) confirmed that fishing mortality driven by recreational fisheries was above recommended levels.

A modeling exercise in the stock assessment program indicated a decline in the estimated spawning biomass from 39,916,128 kg in 1986 to 10,886,217 kg in 2004, a 73% reduction (ASMFC Fishery Focus 2006). The main conclusion of the ASMFC reports was that overfishing was occurring and that demography and habitat selection makes this species particularly susceptible to over fishing. Present management initiatives seek to reduce fishing pressure through bag and size limits and seasonal closures.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The fishery is subjected to comprehensive assessments among USA east coast states and is also subject to size limits (35-40 cm), bag limits (one to eight per day, but most at three to four), and seasonal closures.

Citation: Choat, J.H. & Pollard, D. 2010. Tautoga onitis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T187479A8547027. . Downloaded on 10 October 2015.
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