Bycatch of lined seahorses (Hippocampus erectus) in a Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawl fishery

Bycatch studies have largely ignored population level effects on fish species of little commercial interest. Here we analyze bycatch of the lined seahorse (Hippocampus erectus) in the bait-shrimp trawl fishery in Hernando Beach, Florida, providing the first fisheries data for this species.

Based on catch per unit of effort (CPUE), size, sex, and reproductive status of trawled H. erectus,

  1. 1) approximately 72,000 seahorses were caught annually by this fleet, from a population of unknown size,
  2. 2) trawling affected population cohorts differentially because of temporal and spatial variation in CPUE and population size, and
  3. 3) a greater proportion of females than males was removed in trawling.

Our findings suggest that trawling may affect seahorse populations through direct mortality, social disruption, and habitat damage. However, the lack of specific abundance or catchability estimates for H. erectus means that the precise impact of trawling on this fish remains uncertain. This paper focuses attention on the need for research and monitoring of small fishes that are caught incidentally in nonselective gear.

Baum, J.K., J.J. Meeuwig and A.C.J. Vincent. 2003.  Bycatch of lined seahorses (Hippocampus erectus) in a Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawl fishery.  Fisheries Bulletin 101(4):721-731.