• Gulf Fisheries Profiles
  • Sustainable Fisheries Management
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A fisherman catching fish or shellfish for personal use, sport, and challenge (as opposed to for profit or research). 


Farming of aquatic animals and plants in natural and man-made aquatic environments, including the ocean, lakes, ponds, and containers. Also known as fish or shellfish farming or culture. 

Bag Limit

Legal limit on size and/or quantity of species a person can catch and keep in a day or a trip. The bag limit may or may not be the same as the possession limit, depending on the species and the state. 

Bandit Gear

A type of hook and line gear with an electric or hydraulic-powered reel; primarily used to catch snappers and groupers. 

Butterfly Net

Similar to skimmer nets, butterfly nets are mounted to and held open by a pair of rigid rectangular metal frames, pushed along each side the boat, and can be emptied without removing the entire net from the water. Fishermen also use them from stationary platforms or anchored boats or barges. Primarily used to harvest shrimp.

Bycatch (Incidental Catch)

Sometimes when fishermen are fishing for one species, they unintentionally catch other animals that live near that species, including other fish species, marine mammals, turtles, or even seabirds that are diving to catch their own food. Fishermen try to avoid bycatch because it takes time and energy away from catching their target species. Managers try to reduce bycatch and its impacts in a number of ways, such as working with fishermen to develop new gear that is more selective in catching the target species and closing areas to fishing where or when the probability of bycatch is high.

Bycatch Reduction Device (BRD)

An opening in a net that allows finfish or other incidentally caught aquatic animals to escape while the target species is directed towards the tail bag or cod end of the net.

Cast Net

Popular with anglers to catch shrimp and bait, these nets open in a circular pattern when thrown on the water. Once the net reaches the bottom, anglers draw them up slowly, trapping the catch as they close.


Quantity of fish (number or weight) caught while fishing; includes fish discarded at sea, not just those landed.


Legal weight limit of fish that fishermen can catch in a season.

Charter Boat

A boat available for-hire, normally by anglers. 

Commercial Fishing

Refers to the intention to make a profit through catching fish and other seafood. This is the opposite of recreational or sport fishing, where fish and seafood are caught for pleasure or competition.


A group of aquatic animals (both freshwater and saltwater) with no backbones, jointed legs, and a hard shell made of chitin. Examples include shrimp, crabs, lobsters, and crawfish. A crustacean is a type of shellfish.


Anyone buying, acquiring, or handling seafood for sale or resale.

Dependent Data

Data collected from a fisherman’s catch. Commercial data is collected through landings reports; recreational data is collected through surveys and dockside sampling. 

Dip Net

A small net with a long handle that is used to scoop fish out of water; often used by anglers to capture bait. 


Similar to a large, curved rake, dredges are typically used to harvest oysters. They have a blade, with teeth or no teeth (scrapers), that gathers the oysters from the bottom and a basket on the end, which collects the oysters. The dredge is attached to the vessel by a chain or rope. Vessels pull one or more dredges, typically in a small circular patter over a reef, until the basket is full then pull the dredge back on board. They dump the harvest on the deck or culling table then drop the dredge back into the water and continue harvesting while the crew culls shell and undersized oysters from the previous load. Dredges can be used in deeper waters. 

Drop Net

A net-covered metal frame attached to a buoy line. Bait is fastened in the middle of the net. Fishermen operate drop nets by hand and fish them in a stationary, passive manner. Gulf crab fishermen have used drop nets to harvest crabs since the 1800s. 

Durable Recreational Equipment Expenditures (Durable Goods Expenditures)

Expenses related to equipment used in recreational fishing activities. These expenses include the purchase of semi-durable goods (tackle, rods, reels, line, etc.), durable goods (motor boats and accessories, non-motorized boats, boating electronics, mooring, boat storage, boat insurance, and vehicles or homes), and angling accessories and multi-purpose items (magazines, club dues, saltwater angling specific clothing, and camping gear).

Economic Contribution

Refers to the amount of output generated, the number of jobs supported, and the contribution to gross domestic product by state or region (also known as value-added impacts) from expenditures related to commercial and recreational fishing under the status quo in a region.  The distinction between economic impacts and economic contributions is that economic impact analysis refers to the difference in the level of economic contributions attributed to an activity, such as commercial or recreational fishing, when there is a change in the level of the activity under analysis.  


Complex interconnected community of animals and plants interacting with land, water, weather, and the surrounding human activities. 


Any species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, as defined in the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  

Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)

All waters from the seaward boundary of coastal states out to 200 nautical miles. Federal authorities have jurisdiction over the EEZ.

Ex-Vessel Price

Price received by the harvester for their catch. 


All activities involved in catching a species of fish or a group of species.


The amount of time and fishing power used to harvest fish. Fishing power includes gear size, boat size, and horsepower (e.g. hours trawled per day, number of hooks set per day, or number of hauls of a seine per day).


The equipment used for fishing (e.g. gillnet, hand line, harpoon, haul seine, long line, bottom and mid water trawls, purse seine, rod-and-reel, pots, and traps). Each of these gears can have multiple configurations.

Fishing Mortality

The rate of removal of fish from the population through fishing. 


The legal time period during which fishing is allowed. This may vary by species and between states managed and federally managed waters. 


A type of fishing gear used to catch fish by gilling, entangling, or wedging fish in the mesh of the net. Gillnets are normally set vertically in a straight line to capture fish as they attempt to swim past the net. 

Gross Domestic Product

The dollar amount of goods and services produced by a country/state for a period of time; referred to as the GDP. 


Fish such as flounder that live and feed close to the sea floor.


The environment in which a species lives; includes everything that surrounds and affects its life, e.g. water quality, bottom, vegetation, associated species (including its food supplies). 


A fishing line managed by hand (no rod or reel is used).  


The quantity in number or weight of fish caught and kept from an area over a period of time. 

Head Boat

A fishing boat that takes anglers out for a fee per person. Different from a charter boat in that head boat passengers pay individual fees (“per head”) as opposed to renting the boat.

Hook and Line

Fishing gear that mainly consists of a hook attached to a monofilament line. Artificial or natural baits are used to lure fish to the hook; once the fish has bitten and is impaled by the hook, it is hauled in.


The “take” of protected species (such as marine mammals, sea turtles, or seabirds) during fishing. To “take” is defined as to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.


Wages and salaries paid to employees of industry-related jobs and profits and dividends earned by business owners. 

Independent Data

Data collected independent of fishing activities, often through federal, state, or academic research programs using statistically designed sampling methods, such a resource survey.


Jobs are specified on the basis of full-time and part-time jobs. There is significant part-time and seasonal employment in commercial and recreational fishing and many other industries.


Quantity of fish (number or pounds) unloaded on the dock by harvesters for sale or brought to shore by recreational fisherman for personal use. Landings are reported at the locations at which fish are brought to land.


Fishing gear that consists of a horizontal main line with weights and baited hooks attached at regular intervals. Longlines can operate just below the surface, in mid-water depths, or just above the ocean floor. Longlines can extend from several hundred yards to several miles and contain several hundred to several thousand baited hooks.

Marine Mammal

Warm-blooded animals that live in marine waters and breathe air directly, including whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, and walruses. Marine mammals are protected in the United States under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. 


A group of aquatic animals (both freshwater and saltwater) with no skeleton and usually one or two hard calcium carbone shells. Includes clams, oysters, mussels, conch, snails, and scallops. Mollusks are a type of shellfish.


A recreational or commercial fisherman who did not reside in the state where they fished.


When the population is too low, or below a prescribed threshold. Overfished populations are often managed under rebuilding plans which, over time, help return the population to optimal levels.


Refers to the rate of fishing. Overfishing occurs when the rate of removal from a stock is too high, i.e. more is being taken out than is being put in. A goal of responsible fishery management is to prevent and/or end overfishing so that stocks are at optimal levels.

Pelagic Fish

Species that live in the water column as opposed to near the sea floor. They generally live anywhere from the surface to 1,000 meters deep.


Tiny floating plants and animals that live in the water column. 


The number of individuals of a particular species that live within a defined area.

Possession Limit

Legal limit on size and/or quantity of species a person can possess at any time. Can apply to both commercial and recreational fishermen. 


Cages or baskets of various materials (wood, wicker, metal rods, wire netting, etc.) used to catch fish or shellfish. Pots have one or more openings or entrances. They’re usually set on the bottom, with or without bait, singly or in rows, connected by ropes (buoy-lines) to buoys on the surface to mark their location.


The preparation or packaging of fish to render it suitable for human consumption, retail sale, industrial use, or long-term storage. Including but not limited to cooking, canning, smoking, salting, drying, filleting, freezing, or rendering into meal or oil, but not heading and gutting unless additional preparation is done.


Any species that is protected by either the Endangered Species Act (ESA) or the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). This includes all threatened, endangered, and candidate species, as well as all marine mammals.


Nets used to encircle entire schools of fish at or near the surface. A drawstring cable is threaded through the bottom of the net. When the cable has pulled the netting tight, enclosing the fish in a pouch, the catch is hauled onboard.


The maximum number of fish that can be legally landed in a time period. 

Recreational Expenditures

The money spent by anglers related to their recreational fishing activities. Described as either expenditures related to a specific fishing trip or durable equipment expenditures.

Recreational Fishing

Refers to an activity with the intention of enjoyment and not profit (opposite of commercial). 


A young fish entering the stage in its life when it can be fished.


A measure of the number of fish from a generation reaching a certain age, typically the number of fish are added to the fishable population each year. 

Reef Fish

Fish that live mostly around reefs. Examples include snappers and groupers.


A resident at the state level refers to a commercial or recreational fisherman who resides in the state where they fished. At the U.S. level, resident refers only to U.S. residents who fished in the state where they live in order to avoid double counting for fishermen who fish in both their home state and other states.

Rod and Reel

A type of a fishing gear which has a mechanical device onto which the line is wound (reel) mounted to the handle end of a fishing rod. The catch is hauled in by winding the line using the reel.


Sales is the gross sales by businesses within the economic region affected by an activity.


A proportion or a segment of a fish stock removed for study and assumed to be representative of the whole population. The greater the effort, in terms of both numbers and magnitude of the samples, the greater the confidence that the information obtained is a true reflection of the status of a stock (level of abundance in terms of numbers or weight, age composition, etc.).

Size limit

A minimum or maximum limit on the size of fish that may be legally caught and kept. 

Skimmer net

Skimmer nets consist of two rigid, L-shaped, metal frames mounted on each side of a boat with a cone-shaped net attached along two sides of each frame. Skimmers were specifically developed to harvest shrimp in shallower water. Fishermen lower the frames and nets into the water, with the outer part of the frames resting on the seafloor. The frame is rigid enough to keep the net on the bottom but flexible enough to glide over obstacles along the bottom. A line and a weight spread the net horizontally and vertically. The boat pushes the nets through the water column, rather than towing them behind like an otter trawl. Fishermen can retrieve the cod-end of the net (where the catch is retained) and empty the catch while the boat continues to move forward and the mouth of the net continues to fish. 


Release of eggs, either fertilized or to be fertilized.


Animals or plants grouped into categories based on their common attributes; for example, a group of similar fish that can freely interbreed.  


A part of a fish population usually with particular migration patterns, spawning grounds, and targeted by a distinct fishery. Usually grouped this way for management purposes.


Collection and analysis of biological and statistical information to determine the changes in the abundance of fishery stocks in response to fishing, and, to the extent possible, predict future trends of stock abundance. Stock assessments are based on resource surveys; knowledge of the habitat requirements, life history, and behavior of the species; the use of environmental indices to determine impacts on stocks; and catch statistics. Stock assessments are used to assess and specify the present and probable future condition of a fishery. 


The process of sampling, collecting, or observing fish or fishery resources, on board scientific research vessels to increase the scientific knowledge about the resources or their environment.


Ability to persist in the long-term.

Tax Revenues

Total sales and income taxes paid to state and local governments within the state as a result of sales, income, etc. 


As defined by the Endangered Species Act, species which are likely to become endangered in the future. 


Used to harvest oysters since at least the mid-1700s, tongs are rakes that are attached to 14-16 feet long handles. Oystermen use them in shallow bays, bayous, and sounds. There are also smaller tongs called nippers with 8-foot handles; they’re used in shallow tidal areas to harvest scattered or single oysters (rather than clumps of oysters). From the side of a small vessel, oystermen work the tongs back and forth, opening and closing the mouth of the rake, until they feel the rake as full. They then close the handles, lift the rake from the water onto the deck, and open the handles to release the collected oysters. 

Trap (Crab)

First introduced in the Gulf in the early 1950s, crab traps are wire mesh cubes, typically with two to four cone-shaped entrance funnels, an apron that separates the inner and outer chambers which retain the crabs, and an inner chamber for bait. Fishermen attach a line to the top corner of the trap; the line is attached to a plastic or styrofoam buoy. Fishermen usually bait the traps with fish and set them in the water in a line from vessels ranging from small outboard powered flats to large inboard powered skiffs. They often retrieve the traps using a "rake," a rectangular metal frame or boom mounted to vessel.


A net consisting of a cone-shaped body closed by a bag or cod end and extended at the opening by wings. It can be towed by one or two boats and, according to the type, used on the bottom or in midwater (pelagic). Otter trawls, most commonly used offshore to harvest shrimp, are cone-shaped nets with doors made of heavy wood and steel plate that keep the net open and on the bottom. Boats tow one or two trawls (double-rigs), but no more than four trawls (quad-rigs), behind them over the water bottom.

Trip (Fishing Trip)

A vessel excursion, from the time the boat leaves land to the time it returns. For economic purposes, a fishing trip refers to a single day of recreational fishing or commercial seafood harvesting. 

Trip Expenditures

The expenses incurred by anglers or commercial seafood harvesters during a specific fishing trip.  Expenditures might include transportation costs, food and lodging, boat fuel, oil, and ice.

Turtle Excluder Device (TED)

A grid of bars with an opening either at the top or the bottom fitted into a fishing net, for example, a shrimp trawl net. Small animals such as shrimp can pass through the grid and are caught in the net, but the grid stops large animals such as turtles and they can escape through the opening, relatively unharmed. 


Value Added is the contribution made to gross domestic product from commercial or recreational fishing.


Primary wholesalers are those wholesalers in the initial phase of distribution who typically purchase seafood from harvesters. Secondary wholesalers are those wholesalers who purchase from other wholesalers or processors and make final distribution to retailers or restaurants.


Fish in a stock born in the same year.