Hot Topic: Red Drum
Although the state’s latest stock assessment shows that the red drum stock is currently above the SPR (spawning potential ratio) limit, that stock is decreasing at a rate that requires management changes.
Stock Assessment Summary
- Red Drum stock is not overfished (depleted), but overfishing (depletion) is occurring.
- Overfishing has occurred frequently in the most recent decade (80%).
- The spawning potential ratio (SPR; defined below) began trending downward in 2005.
- Recent recreational landings are at the lowest level observed since the 1980s.
- Red Drum has been a recreational-only fishery since 1988. No commercial harvest exists.
- The current recruitment estimate (defined below) is at the lowest level ever observed and has been declining since 1994
LDWF recommends a minimum 35% reduction in yield (total harvested weight) which corresponds to a possibility of rebuilding above target SPR by 2050. However, there are more drastic reductions in yield that could rebuild the stock faster (shortest rebuild occurs at 65% reduction by 2031). See the graphs below.
In the near future, LDWF will request public input through email and online surveys regarding preferred management options. The results will be presented to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC) for consideration and potential action. We encourage you to review the information on this page to better understand the current status of the red drum fishery and the potential management options. Once the survey is available, you will have the information necessary to make the best recommendation based on your angling habits.
Red Drum Assessment Presentation to Commission
Red Drum Management
LDWF monitors two portions of the red drum stock, the juvenile stock (up to age 5 and generally under 27 inches in length) that resides in inshore waters and the adult spawning population (greater than age 5) in nearshore coastal waters. Red drum is unique in that the vast majority (97%) of harvest is on the juvenile stock when it is between 16 and 27 inches in length or about 1.5 to 4 years old. Given this type of harvest strategy, the amount of red drum that moves through the fishery and into the offshore spawning population is critical to the future status of the stock.
The juvenile portion of the red drum stock is measured through an “escapement” rate. Escapement is the percentage of red drum that pass through the recreational fishery (there is no commercial fishery allowed for red drum in Louisiana) from inshore waters as juveniles and make it into the spawning stock offshore. The established escapement rate limit for management is 30%; Louisiana’s escapement rate is currently 20%, indicating too few red drum are surviving to make it offshore to spawn.
The spawning stock of red drum is measured with a spawning potential ratio (SPR), simply put, the number of red drum available to spawn relative to the population if they were not fished. While the current red drum SPR is above the limit of 20%, it has been declining since 2005 as fewer red drum “escape” to the offshore population. Since red drum are a long-lived species (39 years in Louisiana), recovery times will be long even if escapement rates rebound quickly as there is a lag between juvenile fish leaving the estuary between ages 4 and 5 and those fish living out their lifespan to 39 years old.
What Can be Done?
Escapement rates will need to be increased through management measures to rebuild the red drum population and prevent it from declining below the SPR limit in nearshore and offshore waters. While escapement rates can recover to management targets relatively quickly with action (3 to 5 years), recovery of the spawning stock to above management targets could take until the year 2050 given the life span of red drum.
Potential Creel and Harvest Slot Limit Scenarios
What happens if a regulation change is proposed?
Based on the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission’s (LWFC) review of the assessment and updated biological data, management options, and public input, LDWF will recommend management options to the LWFC as a Notice of Intent (NOI). The NOI will be presented to the LWFC at their regular monthly meeting. The LWFC will receive public input on the NOI during this meeting. The LWFC then votes whether to approve the NOI as is or with modifications based on discussion and public input, or to take no action.
Once the NOI is approved, public comment will be accepted for approximately 40-45 days. LDWF will publish a press release announcing the opening of the public comment period.
After the public comment period has closed, the NOI and public comments are transmitted to and reviewed by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment as part of the Legislative Oversight process. During the Legislative Oversight process, these committees have 30 days to consider a hearing. After this process is complete, the NOI will go back to the LWFC for their consideration as a Final Rule. The Final Rule becomes effective when it is published in the Louisiana Register.
The full process can take 90 to 120 days, or more. Any legislative hearings or changes to the rule will extend the timeline for publication of the final rule.
- Stock assessment: a combination of life history metrics (age, growth, reproduction, habitat, etc.), stock abundance, and fishing pressure data used to evaluate the past, present, and future stock status
- Overfished: too few individuals to sustain a stock above the minimum level established for the species. Overfished can be the result of many factors, including overfishing, as well as habitat degradation, pollution, climate change, and disease.
- Overfishing: fishing mortality rates are too high to maintain a healthy stock size
- Spawning stock biomass: total weight of the individuals (typically adult females) that can reproduce in a stock
- Spawning Potential Ratio: the number of red drum available to spawn relative to the population if they were not fished.
- Escapement Rate: the percentage of red drum that pass through the fishery from inshore waters as juveniles and make it into the spawning stock offshore.