43972-1

Polyprion americanus 

Scope: Europe
Language: English
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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Perciformes Polyprionidae

Scientific Name: Polyprion americanus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Wreckfish, Atlantic Wreckfish, Bass, Bass Groper, Cherna, Sea Bass, Sea Rock Perch, Stone Bass, Wreck Bass, Wreck-fish
French Cernia, Cernier, Cernier Atlantique, Cernier Commun, Cernio Escourpena, Franfré Rascas, Lucerna, Mérot Gris, Mérou, Mérou de Bosques, Mérou Fanfré, Péro-mérot, Peskar Goat, Poisson de Bois
Spanish Bacalao, Cherna, Cherne, Chernia, Chernoda, Girom, Jorna, Mero, Mero Chernia, Mero de Roca, Pampol
Synonym(s):
Amphiprion americanus Bloch & Schneider, 1801
Amphiprion americanus Bloch & Schneider, 1801
Polyprion americanum (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)
Polyprion cernium Valenciennes, 1824
Polyprion massiliense Costa, 1829
Sparus cernua Poggi, 1881
Taxonomic Notes: The degree of genetic separation between Polyprion americanus populations in the Atlantic, and those occurring in the southern Pacific (Australia and New Zealand) is similar to the degree of separation seen between P. americanus and congener P. oxygenios. Given ongoing developments in genetic sequencing, further examination may re-define Polyprion systematics.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened (Regional assessment) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2014-03-14
Assessor(s): Collette, B., Fernandes, P., Heessen, H. & Smith-Vaniz, W.F.
Reviewer(s): Ralph, G.
Contributor(s): Brick Peres, M. & Sedberry, G.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Stump, E.
Justification:

European Regional Assessment: Near Threatened (NT)

Polyprion americanus
(Wreckfish) is widely distributed, but populations are relatively disjunct; populations in the North Atlantic appear to be isolated from those in the southern hemisphere. The majority of global landings (79%) are declared from the Food and Agriculture Organization's Northeast Atlantic fishing zone. Within the Northeast Atlantic, landings are declared from the following ICES regions, in order of decreasing landings in 2012: VIII (Bay of Biscay), X (Azores), VII (Irish Sea, West of Ireland, Porcupine Bank, Eastern and Western English Channel, Bristol Channel, Celtic Sea North and South, and Southwest of Ireland - East and West), IX (Portuguese waters), and VI (Rockall, Northwest Coast of Scotland, and the West of Scotland). Within the assessment zone, this species does not appear to be managed in any of the areas where it is landed, and it does not undergo stock assessment. There are no universal signs of population decline in the northeast Atlantic. Declines in landings and/or CPUE have been documented in some regions (particularly from off Portugal, some gear types in the Azores, Madeira), but stable in others (other types of gears in the Azores, Bay of Biscay). Data from the western Atlantic indicate that this species is long-lived (80+ years) and late-maturing (10+ years); the generation length is likely at least 45 years. It has recently been established that P. americanus forms spawning aggregations, which increases its intrinsic vulnerability to overexploitation; however, little data are available as to the location of spawning aggregations in the northeastern Atlantic and only two spawning aggregations have been reported from off the coast of Brazil. Polyprion americanus may be reproducing in the northeastern Atlantic, but further research on the reproduction and life history is recommended. There have been documented commercial extinctions of Wreckfish in Bermuda, suggesting that island stocks may be particularly vulnerable. In the Northeast Atlantic, a recent fishing moratorium at Condor Seamount, Azores Archipelago will provide an opportunity to study the responses of exploited species, including P. americanus (which was among the most important commercial species taken from the region), to reduced fishing mortality.

It seems extremely likely, given the continued and recent increases in exploitation, that the population of Wreckfish will continue to decline in the near future, and that freshly discovered stocks will decline rapidly, if fishing is not controlled. Therefore, this species is assessed as Near Threatened (conservation dependent), as the intrinsically vulnerable population in the northeastern Atlantic is likely to experience substantial declines in population if conservation measures are not enacted.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Polyprion americanus has a widespread but discontinuous range with an anti-tropical distribution (Ball et al. 2000). It is known primarily from the Atlantic Ocean, but also ranges into the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In the southern hemisphere, it is known from South America (Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil) to New Zealand, including the St. Paul and Amsterdam Islands in the western Indian Ocean (Peres 2000). In the western Atlantic, it is found in Newfoundland, Canada and the Gulf of Maine to Florida, USA. In the eastern Atlantic, it ranges from Norway to South Africa including the Mediterranean (Ball et al. 2000), Canary Islands, Madeira, Cape Verde, and Tristan da Cunh (Sedberry et al. 1996, Wirtz et al. 2013).

This species is associated with depths of between 40 and 600 m (Robins and Ray 1986).
Countries occurrence:
Native:
Albania; Algeria; Belgium; Croatia; Cyprus; Denmark; Egypt (Egypt (African part), Sinai); Faroe Islands; France (Corsica, France (mainland)); Germany; Gibraltar; Greece (East Aegean Is., Greece (mainland), Kriti); Guernsey; Ireland; Israel; Italy (Italy (mainland), Sardegna, Sicilia); Jersey; Lebanon; Libya; Malta; Monaco; Montenegro; Morocco; Netherlands; Norway; Portugal (Madeira, Portugal (mainland)); Slovenia; Spain (Canary Is., Spain (mainland)); Sweden; Syrian Arab Republic; Tunisia; Turkey; United Kingdom (Great Britain, Northern Ireland)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Native:
Atlantic – eastern central; Atlantic – northeast; Mediterranean and Black Sea
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):600
Upper depth limit (metres):40
Range Map:43972-1

Population [top]

Population:Population Structure
Evidence from mtDNA indicates that the sub-population in the north Atlantic is probably isolated from that in the southern hemisphere (Sedberry et al. 1996). There may also be a sub-population within the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre (Sedberry et al. 1999). Subsequent genetic work using micro-satellites has revealed three genetically-distinct P. americanus stocks: The North Atlantic and Mediterranean, Brazil, and the South Pacific (Australia and New Zealand) (Ball et al. 2000). The degree of genetic separation between P. americanus populations in the Atlantic, and those occurring in the southern Pacific (Australia and New Zealand) is similar to the degree of separation seen between P. americanus and congener P. oxygenios. Given ongoing developments in genetic sequencing, further examination may re-define Polyprion systematics. Temperature profiles and current patterns are believed to prevent significant gene flow between these three sub-populations (Wakefield et al. 2013).

FAO landing statistics summary
Landings are declared from the following FAO regions, in order of decreasing landings declared in 2011: Northeast Atlantic (79% of total), eastern central Atlantic, Western Central Atlantic, Mediterranean/Black Sea, Northwest Atlantic, Southeast Atlantic, Indian Ocean. The overall trend in landings is one of increase with fluctuations throughout the time series, with a peak of 2,296 tonnes declared in 2008. Portugal and Spain have reported significant (i.e., 50 metric tons per year) catches of wreckfish in recent decades; France and the UK have reported lesser amounts. (FAO Fisheries Statistics, Capture Production 1998; ICES Historical catch Statistics 1950-2010). 

Landings declared to ICES
Wreckfish are declared from the following ICES subareas, in order of decreasing landings in 2012: VIII (Bay of Biscay), X (Azores), VII (Irish Sea, West of Ireland, Porcupine Bank, Eastern and Western English Channel, Bristol Channel, Celtic Sea North and South, and Southwest of Ireland - East and West), IX (Portuguese waters), and VI (Rockall, Northwest Coast of Scotland and North Ireland, (the Northwest Coast of Scotland and North Ireland also known as the West of Scotland). Over all ICES areas, landings have increased steadily from 39 mt in 1980 to a peak of 1,217 in 2007, followed by a decline to about 482 mt in 2012 (ICES 2013). However, as effort has likely a

ICES subarea VIII (Bay of Biscay)
Wreckfish is landed as a deep-water by-catch species in trawl fisheries targeting hake, megrim, anglerfish and Nephops. It is taken as by-catch along with Molva spp., Phycis phycisPhyscis blennoidesPagellus bogaraveoConger conger, Helicolenus dactylopterus, and Beryx spp.

ICES Subarea X (Azores) 
Wreckfish is among the 8 commercially most important species landed in handline and longline fisheries (representing 8 to 10% of total catch), and is one of the main targets of relatively large vessels (12 to 31 meters length) that operate predominantly on offshore seamounts between 3 and 200 nautical miles away from the islands. Fishing depths in this region are up to 700 meters. The mean CPUE using handlines has increased from 1999 to 2009, while the CPUE in long-line fisheries has declined. Informal evidence indicates that the abundance of P. americanus is far lower now as compared to in 1962, when the Condor Seamount was first discovered and named. The abundance of P. americanus in the region is known to fluctuate from year to year, as reflected in good and bad years in catches. In 2007, 2008 and 2009 catches were the highest observed since 1980. An important component of the Azores population is thought to recruit from the western Atlantic coast. There is a regular annual recruitment of juvenile/pre-adults (50 to 90 cm length) of P. americanus from outside areas, which triggers regular, intense harvesting. Similar patterns have been observed at Madeira island. There is a fishing moratorium at Condor Seamount from 2010 to 2014 (Menezes et al. 2013). Unreported catches for this species were <20% of official statistics (Pham et al. 2013). Outside the Azorean EEZ, there are trawl fisheries targeting this species. The CPUE for Wreckfish in the Azores longline survey fluctuated greatly with no overall trend between 1995 and 2011. Mean length showed no trend between 1995 and 2011. No data other than landings are available to assess stocks of this species (ICES 2013).

ICES subareas VI and VII
Annual landings of Wreckfish from the Azores climbed slowly from around 50 to 100 metric tonnes (mt) in the 1970s and 1980s to a peak of 425 mt in 1994. In 1995, the catch dropped rapidly to 246 mt and was down to 139 mt by 1998. As the Wreckfish is an incidental catch for a mixed-species demersal fishery (which has continued to produce increased landings), it seems the decline is a reflection of decreasing Wreckfish stocks. The decline from 1994 to 1998 was 67% (data from Sedberry et al. 1999, ICES Marine Data Centre 2001). In Madeira, the Wreckfish fishery developed slowly with landings rising from 5 metric tonnes in 1988 to a peak 55 mt in 1994. Landings then dropped 51% to around 27 mt in 1996. This was at least partly due to a drop in the number of fishing trips (by around 45%) but as the catch per trip also dropped (by around 15%) there may have been an actual drop in Wreckfish stocks. For this fishing zone, the reduction in Wreckfish stocks is assumed to be 15%. 

Annual landings data are also available for Northeast Portuguese waters (FAO Area 27). As Area 27 includes the Azores, ICES landings data from the Azores was subtracted from Area 27 landings data to give figures for Northeast Portuguese waters (except the Azores). Annual landings rose from 58 mt in 1986 to 283 mt in 1989, peaked at 406 and 373 mt in 1994 and 1995, respectively, and declined steadily to 165 mt in 1998 (FAO Fisheries Statistics, Capture Production 1998; ICES Marine Data Centre 2001). The decline between 1994 and 1998 was 59%.

The western Atlantic subpopulation has shown similar declines in CPUE and total landings. It is not possible to estimate population size at present. A minimum figure could be derived by estimating numbers of fish from 1998 landings data for all countries for which is this data are available, but this would likely represent a vast underestimate; a reasonable maximum figure is not possible to estimate as good data on Wreckfish stocks is not available for many localities within the known range. It also seems likely, as the species inhabits deep water, that there are also stocks yet to be discovered. It may be possible to make a crude approximation by working out the area of potential habitat based on bathymetry and the known range of the animal and multiplying this by population estimates from the better studied fishing grounds.

Data from the US fishery (1985—97), Brazilian fishery (1989 to 98 with some missing years), and Portuguese and Spanish fisheries (1984—1998) show no fluctuations above or approaching order of magnitude that cannot be explained by known fishing effort (data from FAO Fisheries Statistics, Capture Production 1998; Sedberry et al. 1999; Peres 2000). Large annual fluctuations would be unusual for an animal as long-lived and slow to reach sexual maturity as the Wreckfish.

It seems extremely likely, given the continued and recent increases in exploitation, that the population of Wreckfish will continue to decline in the near future, and that freshly discovered stocks will decline rapidly, if fishing is not controlled.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Habitat and Ecology
In Brazil, wreckfish are found on irregular substrate, late juveniles are found from 60 to 250 m depth while adults are deeper at 150 to 500 m (Peres 2000). On the Charleston Bump off South Carolina, most wreckfish are taken over areas of extensive high relief but some are also taken over flat hard bottom (Sedberry et al. 1999). Wreckfish are also found in association with deep-water Lophelia coral reefs (Sulak et al. 2003). The extremes of depth range reported for demersal fish are 42 to 1,000 m (Sedberry et al. 1994). Large individuals are generally caught at depths exceeding 350 meters. Wreckfish inhabit demersal habitats where temperature ranges from 6.0 to 16.3 ºC (data from four localities, Sedberry et al. 1999). Longline investigations were carried out over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at depths of 400 to 1,300 meters revealed that P. americanus was characteristic of the depth interval ranging from 400 to 900 meters (ICES 1998). The maximum recorded length of a Wreckfish is 210 cm (Robins and Ray 1986). More precise estimates of the extent of occurrence (EOO) could be estimated by calculating the area of potential habitat using the information in Sedberry et al. (1999). The area of occupancy (AOO) would probably be the spawning grounds as this species aggregates to spawn (Peres 2000). However, there seems to be no more information than this available by which to estimate the area of spawning grounds. The EOO and AOO are assumed to be stable as wreckfish inhabit deep rocky reefs, where are not thought to fluctuate in size or quality, or to be in decline (e.g., in Brazil: M. Peres pers. comm. 2001).

Diet
Juveniles are pelagic to a length of around 50 to 60 cm and associate with floating seaweeds and wreckage (Sedberry et al. 1999). In the Mediterranean, pelagic juveniles occur from June-August (Deudero and Morales-Nin 2000). Pelagic juveniles feed on teleost fishes, particularly Trachurus species and as well as other items (Deudero and Morales-Nin 2000). Adults feed on squids and mesopelagic fishes (Weaver and Sedberry 2001).

Life History and Reproduction

Polyprion americanus may form spawning aggregations. Spawning aggregations form in specific sites off the coast of Brazil (Peres 2000); however, as of 2003, no further sites have been identified (IUCN Red List). Polyprion americanus males are first mature at 74.9 cm (9 years) and are all mature by 80 cm (10.9 years). Females are first mature at 77.9 cm (10.4 years) and all are mature by 90 cm TL (15.2 years). In the Mediterranean, the maximum recorded size is 131 cm TL and the length at maturity is 90 cm TL (Tsikliras and Stergiou 2014).The reproductive season of P. americanus off the coast of Brazil was determined to be April-September. Wreckfish aggregate to spawn in deep waters (>300 meters) off southern Brazil, especially north of Rio Grande, although it is possible that some fish spawn in pairs or small groups along the entire continental slope. The relatively large testes of male P. americanus are another indication that this species is an aggregate spawner (Peres and Klippel 2003).

Generation time was calculated from age population structure data obtained from research cruises off Southern Brazil (Peres 2000) and other data about the fishery (Peres and Haimovici 1998, Peres 2000). This generation time is calculated from an exploited fishery; however, this is consistent with stocks in the USA which were monitored shortly after exploitation began and where most fish harvested have been between 8 and 12 years old (Sedberry et al. 1999). 

The maximum observed age of wreckfish (through otoliths) from a study in Brazil was 81 years for males and 64 years for females Peres (2000). However, the oldest fish of more than 500 sampled from the US fishing grounds (Blake Plateau off South Carolina) was just 39 years (Vaughan et al. 2001). In the US fishery, most fish >100 cm total length (TL) were female (Sedberry et al. 1994). Different fisheries may consistently land fishes of differing size ranges (Sedberry et al. 1999).

Systems:Marine

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Polyprion americanus is an important commercial species in many parts of its range and is harvested mainly for human consumption. It is also a component of the recreational fishery in New Zealand and Australia (Wild Fisheries Research Program 2008/2009). There is increasing interest in this species on both coasts of the Atlantic due to the quality of its flesh, large size, and and high market price. This species has an exceptionally high growth rate during the pelagic phase of its life cycle (Machias et al. 2003).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Intrinsic vulnerability
Wreckfish is a long-lived (80+ years), late maturing (10+ years) species which is found in deepwater in restricted hard-bottom localities. It is vulnerable to sequential depletion.

Fisheries
The majority of declared landings (79%) originate in the Northeast Atlantic fishing zone. Wreckfish are declared from the following ICES subareas, in order of decreasing landings in 2012: VIII (Bay of Biscay), X (Azores), VII (Irish Sea, West of Ireland, Porcupine Bank, Eastern and Western English Channel, Bristol Channel, Celtic Sea North and South, and Southwest of Ireland - East and West), IX (Portuguese waters), and VI (Rockall, Northwest Coast of Scotland and North Ireland, (the Northwest Coast of Scotland and North Ireland also known as the West of Scotland) (ICES landings database). There is increasing interest in this species on both coasts of the Atlantic due to the quality of its flesh, large size, and and high market price; While it is managed in the Western Atlantic (USA and Brazil), there do not appear to be any species-specific regulations in the Eastern Atlantic.

The US fishery for wreckfish only started commercially following the chance discovery of stocks large enough to support commercial fishing off South Carolina in 1987. The numbers of fishing boats involved rose rapidly and there was concern by both biologists and fishermen that the fishery might not be sustainable (Sedberry et al. 1999). In general, large fish species that are slow to grow and mature are often poorly equipped to withstand intensive fishing. Although there was no obvious decrease in the length-frequency distributions of Wreckfish caught off the US from 1989 to 1997 that would indicate stock declines, this may partly be due to the life-history of the animal. Juveniles are pelagic up to a large size (60 cm) before they descend and become demersal so it may be a number of years before fishing pressure would be reflected in decreasing fish sizes and by then it might be too late to initiate a management plan (Sedberry et al. 1999). Current management in the USA assumes that the Wreckfish stocks on the US fishing ground will not be affected by fishing elsewhere, but as the source of the pelagic juveniles is not known, this may not be true (Sedberry et al. 1999). European fish hooks are frequently found in fish caught from US waters. This would seem to indicate the migration of large Wreckfish across great distances (Sedberry et al. 1999). Finally, thousands of pelagic juveniles are being caught by pelagic tuna drift-net fisheries in the northern Atlantic (Sedberry et al. 1999) which may affect fisheries of adults in the future.

The case of Bermuda, where catches dropped rapidly after only being sustained for two years seems to show that high levels of fishing pressure (through use of bottom longlines in the case of Bermuda) can cause commercial extinctions of wreckfish, at least in island habitats (Sedberry et al. 1999).

The following data on Wreckfish fisheries exist in the literature. Declines in landings and CPUE are assumed to reflect declines in Wreckfish stocks unless it is known that fishing effort has decreased or other factors are involved.

1) The Wreckfish fishery has existed in Brazil since 1973. The number of vessels involved increased from 10 in the 1970s to more than 35 in 1997 and there were technological advances in the gears used. The only estimated annual landings data available are 2,772 t (1989), 2,150 mt (1990), 1,674 t (1991), 2,291 t (1994) and 1,080 t (1995). CPUE declined 90% (0.72 to 0.073 kg/day/hook) off Southern Brazil from 1989/91 to 1997/98 (Peres 2000). This fishery targets spawning aggregations thus increasing the susceptibility of the animal to overfishing.

2) Following a maximum Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 2 million pounds annually, imposed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council in 1990/91, the estimated catch from the USA showed a relatively steady decline from 1,270,557 pounds (38,205 fish) in 1992 to 157,299 pounds (4,958 fish) in 2000 (Sedberry et al. 1999, Vaughan 2001). This is a drop of 87%. This is believed to be due to a decrease in fishing effort (G. Sedberry pers. comm. 2001) as the number of boats targeting wreckfish has declined (from 46 in 1992 to 3 in 2000, a drop of 93%) while the catch per hour has not (Hardy 2001) and the mean lengths of caught fish have not declined (Vaughan 2001). Fishing for wreckfish off the USA requires considerable skill and only the most dedicated fishers have remained. Wreckfish stocks seem large enough to maintain the current fishery (Sedberry et al. 1999).

3) A small wreckfish fishery off Bermuda developed rapidly from 1979 (25 fish) to 1981 (369 fish) and 1982 (311) fish. Catches declined sharply from 1982 (311 fish weighed roughly 4.7 mt) to 1983 (1.2 mt) and remained below 1.5 mt over the 13 years. In 1996 and 1997, just 6 and 9 fish were caught. The decline in landings from 1981 to 1996 (roughly 5.1 mt to 0.2 t) is a drop of 96% (Sedberry et al. 1999). Rapid declines were associated with the introduction of longlines into what had been a vertical line fishery.

4) Annual landings of wreckfish from the Azores (off Portugal) climbed slowly from around 50 to 100 mt in the 1970s and 1980s to a peak of 425 mt 1994. In 1995 the catch dropped rapidly to 246 mt and was down to 139 mt by 1998. As the Wreckfish is an incidental catch for a mixed-species demersal fishery which has continued to produce increased landings, it seems the decline is a reflection of decreasing Wreckfish stocks. The decline from 1994 to 1998 was 67% (data from Sedberry et al. 1999, ICES Marine Data Centre 2001).

5) In Madeira (off Portugal) the Wreckfish fishery developed slowly with landings rising from 5 metric tonnes in 1988 to a peak 55 mt in 1994. Landings then dropped 51% to around 27 mt in 1996. This was at least partly due to a drop in the number of fishing trips (by around 45%) but as the catch per trip also dropped (by around 15%) there may have been an actual drop in Wreckfish stocks. For this location the reduction in wreckfish stocks is assumed to be 15%.

6) Annual landings data are also available for Northeast Portuguese waters (FAO Area 27). As Area 27 includes the Azores, ICES landings data, which lists the Azores landings separately was subtracted from Area 27 landings data to give figures for Northeast Portuguese waters (except the Azores). Annual landings here rose from 58 mt in 1986 to 283 mt in 1989, peaked at 406 and 373 mt in 1994 and 1995, respectively, and declined steadily to 165 mt in 1998 (FAO Fisheries Statistics, Capture Production 1998; ICES Marine Data Centre, 2001). The decline between 1994 and 1998 was 59%. Polyprion americanus are also landed at Corner Rise Seamount, a system of 21 peaks which has been exploited by deep-water commercial fishing since the 1970s.

7) In Europe, only Portugal and Spain have reported significant (i.e., 50 metric tons per year) catches of wreckfish in recent decades. Annual landings for Spain in FAO Area 27 remained below 50 mt from 1984 to 1995, rising to 115 mt in 1996 and 265 and 250 mt in 1997 and 1998 respectively (FAO Fisheries Statistics, Capture Production 1998). No further information on this fishery could be located, including whether these levels of exploitation are sustainable.

8) Angola's annual landings of wreckfish stayed below 15 metric tons from 1984-1993. Landings rose sharply thereafter, from 66 mt in 1994 to 235 mt in 1995 and 1,002 and 1,326 mt in 1995 and 1997 respectively (FAO Fisheries Statistics, Capture Production 1998). No further information on this fishery could be located, including whether these levels of exploitation are sustainable. See note on systematics above regarding the taxonomic status of Polyprion americanus in southern Africa. Landings in South Africa include Polyprion oxegenios (some from South Atlantic seamounts and islands) and a species referred to as Polyprion americanus (P. Heemstra pers. comm.).

9) In New Zealand, catch data for Polyprion americanus and Polyprion oxygeneios (hapuku) are lumped together. Wreckfish have been caught in relatively small quantities by the early Maori, and then by European settlers from the mid 19th century. The first decades of the commercial fishery for both species of Polyprion are undocumented, but it was well developed with a combined catch of over 1,500 mt by the 1930s (Paul 2000). Management of both Polyprion species (together) is by Quota Management System, introduced in 1986, involving Total Allowable Catches (2,179-2,181 mt annually, 1996-2000). Landings of wreckfish alone for the 1990s are estimated to be in the region of 200-400 mt. (L. Paul pers. comm. 2001). Only a few fishers specifically target the two species although many fishers have small quotas to cover Wreckfish caught incidentally in many fisheries targeting other species (L. Paul pers. comm. 2001). Stocks are probably overfished, but there has been very little fisheries research carried out to verify the nature of this (C. Roberts pers. comm. 2000).

10) Both Wreckfish (known in Australia as Bass grouper) and Hapuku (Polyprion oxygeneios) are taken in the blue eye (Hyperoglyphe antartica) fishery off south east Australia. Records of commercial catches since the mid-1980s indicate that catches of Hapuku and Bass grouper in this fishery, which are recorded together, are low, between 10 and 40 t a year, Hapuku being by far the major species. There is no indication as to whether numbers of Wreckfish are stable or in decline although some research has recently been initiated which should provide some answers in the future (Pascale Baelde pers. comm. April 2001).

Caribbean:  Following a maximum Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 2 million pounds annually, imposed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council in 1990/91, the estimated catch from the USA showed a relatively steady decline from 1,270,557 pounds (38,205 fish) in 1992 to 157,299 pounds (4,958 fish) in 2000 (Sedberry et al. 1999, Vaughan 2001). This is a drop of 87%. This is believed to be due to a decrease in fishing effort (Sedberry pers. comm. 2001) as the number of boats targeting wreckfish has declined (from 46 in 1992 to 3 in 2000, a drop of 93%) while the catch per hour has not (Hardy 2001) and the mean lengths of caught fish have not declined (Vaughan 2001). Fishing for wreckfish off the USA requires considerable skill and only the most dedicated fishers have remained. Wreckfish stocks seem large enough to maintain the current fishery (Sedberry et al. 1999).

In summary, fisheries specifically targeting Wreckfish have only developed since the 1970s, apparently because of the technological advances in fishing needed to target a large animal living in deep waters. Where fisheries have suddenly targeted wreckfish specifically (Brazil, Bermuda, Portugal), the fishery has reached a peak and then gone into decline within a few years.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In the northeastern Atlantic, a recent fishing moratorium at Condor Seamount, Azores Archipelago will provide an opportunity to study the responses of exploited species, including P. americanus (which was among the most important commercial species taken from the region), to reduced fishing mortality (Menezes and Giacomello 2013).

In the USA, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council put fishing regulations into place in 1990 and 1991. These cover the area between 3-200 miles off the coasts of North and South Carolina, and East Florida (the area bounded by 30 and 33º N latitude). Commercial fishers must have a Wreckfish permit and Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) shares to fish. There is no recreational fishery in the USA. The Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of Wreckfish by ITQ holders is 2 million pounds (907 metric tonnes) per year. There is a spawning season closure from Jan 15 to April 15. In addition, longlines may not be used (Sedberry et al. 1999).

There is a TAC limit for the commercial fishery in New Zealand of 2,181 metric tons for Polyprion americanus and Polyprion oxygeneios (hapuku) together. There are also some complex bag limits for the much smaller recreational fishery.

An individual transferable quota (ITQ) was establish in 1992 in the South Atlantic for wreckfish (Gauvin et al. 1994).

The Brazilian sub-population of P. americanus was assessed as Critically Endangered using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. Global Assessment of P. americanus was Data Deficient using IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. Polyprion americanus was regionally assessed as Least Concern in the Mediterranean (Abdul Malak et al. 2011).


Citation: Collette, B., Fernandes, P., Heessen, H. & Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 2015. Polyprion americanus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T43972A45795607. . Downloaded on 16 August 2018.
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