The aquaculture of red drum in the US occurs only in the state of Texas, with 7 active farms. All of the US production is in Texas, which provides around 2% of the global total. No commercial fishery exists for the red drum as the population was depleted in the 1970’s. This led to the farming of the species as a way to supplement the wild stocks. Aquaculture currently supports the recreational fishing of red drum.
The red drum is a marine fish which is highly adaptable to varying environmental conditions. This makes it an ideal candidate for aquaculture. The aquaculture of red drum relieves pressure on wild stocks to satisfy consumer demand for sport fishing.
The feed used in red drum aquaculture is composed mainly of the Gulf Menhaden, which is not a species at risk. Predator mortality is rare, and is minimized through good farming practices. Risk of escape and spread of disease is extremely low, since the fish are reared in enclosed ponds that are not directly connected to natural water bodies. There is minimal stress imposed on wild stocks, as 75% of the fish are sourced from domesticated broodstock.
There are minimal habitat and ecosystem impacts since the farm is not located on particularly sensitive habitat, and chemicals are rarely used except in cases of severe algal blooms. The farms are largely sited on former wetland and estuary environments that have previously been altered for agriculture and ranching use and so are considered a secondary habitat conversion of the historic wetlands. Water must be treated before being released, which occurs rarely.
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Gulf of Mexico
The distribution of Black Drum spans five states. Commercial harvest occurs mostly in Louisiana and Texas and catch from fisheries in Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida are considered insignificant to total landings in these waters.
Black Drum are long-lived estuarine species. This characteristic, combined with a moderate age at first maturity and growth rate, a limited habitat range, and specialized behavioural requirements make this species less resilient to fishing pressures. Specialized behaviours include forming large aggregates offshore for spawning making them highly susceptible to fishing pressure. The population status of Black Drum is unknown due to incomplete or no stock assessments.
The management plan for Gulf of Mexico Black Drum is not strong. Stock assessments are conducted only in the state of Louisiana by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. There is a lack of specific bycatch reduction plans for all states; however, in Texas, bycatch reduction efforts have been made such as weekend removal of lines and the use of circle hooks to address this issue, but its effectiveness is not yet known.
Trotlines are a selective gear that results in little mortality of bycatch species. However, the overall impact of the Black Drum fishery on other species is unknown. The extent of the impact of commercial fishing on Black Drum habitat and ecosystems is unknown. Trotlines are expected to have moderate damage as they are placed on the bottom and the habitat is only moderately resilient to fishing pressures.
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