PI: NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program: A decision-support tool for evaluating the impacts of short- and long-term management decisions on the Gulf of Mexico red snapper resource, 528,945 USD (Co-PI: Daniel Goethel, NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center; Matthew Smith, NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center; Stuart Carlton, Texas Sea Grant; 2017~2020)

PI: Florida Sea Grant: Impacts of stock spatial structure and connectivity on the stock assessment and management of Caribbean spiny lobster stocks, 222,281 USD (Co-PI: Dr. David Kelly, Florida International University; 2016~2018)

IBM Video Example  1:                                                                               IBM Video Example  2: 

PI: Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies: Estimating effective sample size for head-boat-caught length (weight) distributions & estimate recreational head-boat landings, 34,147 USD (2016~2017)

PI: Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies: Using time series and empirical dynamic models to forecast the fishing prohibition date, 34,147 USD (2016~2017)

PI: Florida Sea Grant: Developing a size-structured stock assessment model for the spiny lobster, Panulirus argus, in the southeast United States, 166,551 USD (2014~2017)

PI: Florida International University: Management strategy evaluation for bigeye tuna and yellowfin tuna fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean, 8,333 USD (2012)

PI: Shanghai Ocean University: Developing and evaluating biological reference points for bigeye tuna and yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean, 100,000 Chinese Dollars (2008~2010)

Advisor: Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Investigating temporal variation in stable carbon and nitrogen isotope values of Florida Caribbean spiny lobster recruits. 2,400 USD (PI: Nan Yao; 2017)

Advisor: (co-advise this project with Dr. Michael Heithaus): 2016 Florida Sea Grant Guy Harvey Scholarship: Novel video technologies to assess population status and species distributions patterns of reef sharks in data-poor regions. 5,000 USD (PI: James Kilfoil; 2016~2017)

Advisor: (co-advise this project with Dr. William Anderson): 2016 Florida Sea Grant Scholars Program: Application of stable isotope analysis to trace origins of spiny lobster recruitment, 3,000 USD (PI: Nan Yao; 2016~2017)

Funded Projects

Background -- Spiny Lobster


      The spiny lobster, Panulirus argus, is a decapod crustacean distributed throughout the subtropical western Atlantic [1]. It is widely distributed in tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean. It has been harvested by 23 counties in the Caribbean area.

      The spiny lobster is covered with an exoskeleton. The exoskeleton does not expand, therefore the lobster must molt it regularly in order to grow bigger. Before molting, an individual begins building a new, larger skeleton inside the existing one. As it gets too big to be contained, it splits open the outer shell, and the new exoskeleton hardens [2]. The spiny lobster could grow up to 60 cm (24 in) long, but typically around 20 cm (7.9 in). Sexual maturity in females is reached at a carapace length of 54–80 mm (2.1–3.1 in) [2]. The spiny lobster is benthic. The diet is mostly composed of mollusks, but they also consume detritus, vegetable material, and dead animals and fish they find on the bottom [3]. 

Spiny lobster under the shelter.

Fisheries and Stock Assessment of USA

      Most of the US southeastern spiny lobster harvest comes from Florida, mainly the Florida Keys [4]. The annual lobster landings in Florida peaked at more than 10 million pounds in 2001 [5]. However, after 2001, this value decreased substantially. In 2010, the state’s annual lobster landing was around 5.5 million pounds; about 50% of what it was 10 years earlier [6].

Commercial spiny lobster fisheries use traps to catch the lobsters, while recreational anglers harvest spiny lobsters primarily by diving.

      The stock condition of the spiny lobster in the southeast US was assessed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, under the supervision of Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review. The latest stock assessment was conducted at the end of 2010, when an integrated Catch-at-Age Model and a Modified DeLury Model were applied. The results of those two models have been peer-reviewed by an independently selected panel. The Review Panel rejected the report and identified three concerns about the methods: 1) uncertainty in estimating juvenile natural mortality because of the Panulirus argus virus 1; 2) limited knowledge of the stock-recruitment relationship because of the external recruitment from upstream Caribbean stocks; 3) inaccurate and imprecise estimation of the age composition [6]. 

Commercial spiny lobster trap.

Photo Credit: John Plotkin 

Recreational diver harvests lobsters.

Photo Credit: Scuba Diving.com

Background -- Red Snapper


      Red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) is distributed throughout the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) and the U.S. Atlantic coast to North Carolina. The GoM stock is divided into two sub-stocks: eastern and western GoM, separated roughly by the Mississippi River. The highest density of ages 0-1 red snapper is found in the northern GoM at depth between 18-55 m from the Alabama-Florida border to the Texas-Mexico border [7]. They prefer shell substrate over sand substrate [8]. The newly settled fish smaller than 40 mm total length (TL) is mostly found in open habitat, but begin moving onto the reefs as their lengths approaching 100 mm TL [9]. Red snapper at age 2 or older can be found across the shelf to the shelf edge and show an affinity for vertical structure [10], especially from ages 2-10 years. Red snapper older than ages 8-10 years are no longer totally dependent on structured habitats and are capable of forage over open habitat with threat from

Red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus)

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

predation. They tendto spend most of their time over soft bottoms, especially areas with sea bottom depressions and lumps [11]. A NMFS bottom-longline survey suggests that red snapper tend to be most abundant at depths from 55 to 92 m and that older and larger red snapper are found more frequently in the western GoM and younger and smaller fish are found in the eastern GoM [12]. Adult red snapper tend to experience a seasonal depth-related movement toward shallower water (inner-mid shelf) in the spring/summer months and offshore (mid-outer shelf) in the winter months [13]. This movement may be related to spawning-related activity [14].

      Red snappers experience high rates of growth when they are young, but start to slow down when they reach ages 8-10 years old. There is little evidence for strong sexual dimorphism in growth [15]. The average maximum attainable length in the von Bertalanffy growth equation is less than 900 mm TL. Females tend to mature at relatively smaller lengths and at younger ages in the eastern GoM compared to those in the western GoM [16]. The red snapper spawns from Apr. through Jan. and peaks in June and July over most of its range [13]. On average, a female of age 10 can produce over 60 million eggs per year. Young (to age-8) red snapper in the eastern GoM tend to have a higher reproductive output compared with those of the same age individuals in the western GoM. 

Management Strategy Evaluation

      Management strategy evaluation uses simulation methods to quantify the risk associated with a suite of potential fisheries management actions [17,18]. Management of the GoM red snapper resource over the last three decades has been controversial and contentious. Numerous amendments affecting the red snapper fishery and resulting harvest, as well as emergency and interim rules, have been made since the early 1980’s when the Reef Fisheries Management Plan was created for the GoM. Although the stock has begun to rebuild recently, increases in recreational anglers and limited quotas have led to short fishery seasons, frustrated anglers, and calls to rescind strict regulations. Meanwhile, the most recent stock assessment report for red snapper (SEDAR 2015) indicated a number of uncertainties that may impact the reliability of current or alternate management strategies. The need to develop a management strategy evaluation tool that can test the robustness of long-term management strategies and short-term regulations has been indicated in the recent stock assessment reports [14,19,20]. For complex fisheries like GoM red snapper, a customized decision-support tool is needed, based on a broader MSE framework that allows for a more holistic evaluation of alternative management strategies.

      Please test our newly developed web-based GoM red snapper MSE decision-support tool: https://gomredsnappermsetool.fiu.edu/.


[1] Herrnkind, W.Q.F., & M. Bulter IV. (1986). Factors regulating postlarval settlement and juvenile microhabitat use by spiny lobsters Panulirus argus. Mar. Ecol. 34: 23–30.

[2] http://oceana.org/en/explore/marine-wildlife/caribbean-spiny-lobster

[3] Munro J.L. (1983). "The biology, ecology and bionomics of spiny lobsters (Palinuridae), apider crabs (Majidae) and other crustacean resources". In Munro J.L. ed. Caribbean Coral Reef Fishery Resources. ICLARM Technical Reports 7 (2nd ed.). The WorldFish Center. pp. 206–222. ISBN 978-971-10-2201-3.

[4] Prochaska, F.J., & J.S. Williams (1978). An Economic Analysis of Spiny Lobster Production by Individual Firms at Optimum Stock Levels. Southern Journal of Agricultural Economics 10(02).

[5] Sharp, W.C., R.D. Bertelsen, & V.R. Leeworthy (2005). Long‐term trends in the recreational lobster fishery of Florida, United States: Landings, effort, and implications for management. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 39(3): 733-747.

[6] Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review 8 (2005). Stock Assessment Report III, Southeastern US Spiny Lobster, Section III, Assessment Workshop, Assessment of spiny lobster, Panulirus argus, in the southeast United States. Stock Assessment Report prepared by SEDAR 08 U.S. Stock Assessment Panel. Available from http://www.sefsc.noaa.gov/sedar/Sedar_Workshops.jsp?WorkshopNum=08%20B.

[7] Gallaway, B.J., J.G. Cole, R. Meyer, & P. Roscigno (1999). Delineation of essential habitat for juvenile red snapper in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 128: 713-726.

[8] Szedlmayer, S.T., & J.D. Lee (2004). Diet shifts of juvenile red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) with changes in habitat and fish size. Fishery Bulletin 102: 366-375.

[9] Workman, I.K., A. Shah, D. Foster, & B. Hataway (2002). Habitat preferences and site fidelity of juvenile red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus). ICES Journal of Marine Sciences 59: 43-50.

[10] Patterson, W.F., J.C. Watterson, R.L. Shipp, & J.H. Cowan (2001) Movement of tagged red snapper in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 130: 533-545.

[11] Nieland, D.L., & C.A. Wilson (2003). Red snapper recruitment to and disappearance from oil and gas platforms in the northern Gulf of Mexico. In Stanberg DR, Scarborough-Bull A, eds, Fisheries, reefs, and offshore development. American Fisheries Society Symposium Series 36, American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD, USA, pp 73-81.

[12] Mitchell, K.M., T. Henwood, G.R. Fitzhugh, R.J. Allman (2004). Distribution, abundance, and age structure of red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) caught on research longlines in U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Gulf Mexico Science 22: 164-172.

[13] Bradley, E., & C.E. Bryan (1975). Life history and fishery of the red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) in the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Proceedings, 27th Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute and the 17th Annual International Game Fish Research Conference, Miami, FL, USA, November, pp. 77-106.

[14] Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review 7 (2005). Stock assessment report, Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper. Southeast Data, Assessment and Review, North Charleston, SC, USA. 480 p.

[15] Goodyear, C.P. (1995). Mean size at age: an evaluation of sampling strategies using simulated red grouper data. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 124: 746-755.

[16] Woods, M.K., J.H. Cowan, & D.L. Neiland, (2007). Demographic difference in northern Gulf of Mexico red snapper reproduction maturation: implication for the unit stock hypothesis. In Patterson W.F., III, Cowan J.H., Jr., Fitzhugh G.R., Neiland, D.L., eds, Red snapper ecology and fisheries in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. American Fisheries Society Symposium Series 60, Bethesda, MD, USA, pp. 217-277.

[17] Jones, M.L., B.J. Irwin, G.J.A. Hansen, H.A. Dawson, A.J. Treble, W. Liu, W. Dai, & J.R. Bence (2009). An operating model for the integrated pest management of great lakes sea lampreys. The Open Fish Science Journal 2: 59-73.

[18] Punt, A.E., & D. Hobday (2009). Management strategy evaluation for rock lobster, Jasus edwardsii, off Victoria, Australia: accounting for uncertainty in stock structure. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 43: 485-509.

[19] Southeast Data, Assessment and Review 31 (2013). Stock Assessment Report, Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper. Southeast Data, Assessment and Review, Pensacola, FL, USA. 224 p.

[20] Southeast Data, Assessment and Review (2015). Stock Assessment of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico 1872-2013 –with provisional 2014 landing. SEDAR update assessment. 242 p.