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In the southeastern USA and the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), Atlantic Tripletail Lobotes surinamensis are increasingly targeted by recreational anglers, indicating that stock status should be assessed. A critical need for such assessments is age-specific data; however, previous studies have drawn conflicting conclusions regarding the most appropriate structure for aging. Moreover, growth parameters and mortality rates for GOM Atlantic Tripletail are unknown. Therefore, the goals of this study were to (1) evaluate sagittal otoliths and first dorsal spines as aging structures; (2) model combined and sex-specific growth; and (3) estimate mortality rates for GOM Atlantic Tripletail. From 2012 to 2019, Atlantic Tripletail (N = 230, including a near-record-size specimen) were collected from the north-central GOM via hook and line and were aged using otoliths and first dorsal spines. Total length ranged from 212 to 940 mm, and age ranged from 0.07 to 5.27 years. Otoliths produced higher percent agreement (95.0%) and lower average percent error (3.0%) between readers compared to spines (82.9% and 6.5%, respectively). The von Bertalanffy growth parameters differed slightly between the otolith-based data (mean asymptotic length [L∞] = 762.42 mm, Brody growth rate coefficient [k] = 0.69 year−1, and hypothetical age at which length equals zero [t0] = −0.58 year) and spine-based data (L∞ = 718.83 mm, k = 0.79 year−1, and t0 = −0.56 year). For both otolith- and spine-based sex-specific data, the best-fitting version of the von Bertalanffy growth function permitted L∞ to vary by sex. Chapman– Robson estimates of instantaneous total mortality rate and total annual mortality rate were 1.15 and 68.66%, respectively. Based on empirical, life history-based methods, the instantaneous natural mortality rate was estimated at 0.75–0.97 and the instantaneous fishing mortality rate was estimated at 0.18–0.45, suggesting low levels of exploitation. These growth parameters and mortality estimates will provide information for future stock assessments, thereby ensuring sustainability of the GOM stock of Atlantic Tripletail.

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Marine and Environmental Sciences


This article was published in the journal of Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of the American Fisheries Society.

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