north carolina marine & estuary foundation


94.16% = DEFICIENT

How It’s Calculated

FINDEX is a novel way to gauge whether a species’ abundance is trending up or down. The calculations compare the desired condition of a fish stock with its existing condition. Specifically, FINDEX measures the gaps between either Target or Threshold biological reference values necessary for population recovery and the most recent, or “Terminal”, estimates of those values. Biological reference points vary among species depending upon the available data.

For Bluefish, the FINDEX gap assessment compared Target and Terminal values of Fishing Mortality (F35%) and Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB35%) from the 2022 stock assessment support information. The model, which includes Bluefish data from North Carolina, was developed jointly by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. The Terminal year in the stock assessment model was 2022.

Here's the FINDEX formula used for Bluefish:

  • (1.572 x 0.599) x 100 = 94.16%
  • 94.16% = DEFICIENT

What Does Deficient Mean?

“Deficient” is assigned to any stock with a FINDEX value between 50 and 99%.

The most recent peer-reviewed stock assessment model for Bluefish (2022 data) tells a mixed story. Fishing mortality performed well relative to the target reference point, indicating overfishing was not occurring.

On the other hand, Spawning Stock Biomass remained well below the target, indicating the stock was overfished. Stock status suggesting “overfishing” is not occurring, while at the same time indicating that the stock is “overfished” is difficult to interpret. Our FINDEX metric remedies this confusion by classifying Bluefish’s status as “Deficient.”

Note there is a significant time lag associated with updates to stock assessments for most of North Carolina’s fisheries. Periods between updates are usually 5 years, and sometimes 10+ years. For this reason, FINDEX calculations may not accurately describe current conditions – instead, FINDEX evaluates the most recent scientific data available.

Commercial Bluefish Trends

Commercial Bluefish Trends: The graph below illustrates commercial harvest trends for Bluefish from 1985 through 2020. In 2020, 649 commercial fishers recorded 8,890 trips harvesting 1,113,009 pounds of Bluefish valued at $668,609. Estuarine and ocean gill nets accounted for 97% of the 2020 commercial harvest. The 2020 commercial quota for Bluefish was 1,056,058 pounds. Supporting data was sourced from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

Recreational Bluefish Trends

The graph below illustrates recreational harvest trends for Bluefish from 1985 through 2020. In 2020, recreational fishers harvested an estimated 2,108,296 Bluefish weighing 2,124,224 pounds. Mean length in 2020 was 12.5 inches and mean weight was 1.0 pound per fish. The estimated number of Bluefish released recreationally in 2020 was 6,557,751 fish. Supporting data was collected through the Marine Recreational Information Program as sourced from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Although not displayed graphically, note that the proportional standard error (PSE) of the annual recreational estimates averaged 15 over the period 1985-2020.

State Record

  • North Carolina’s state record Bluefish was landed off Cape Hatteras on January 30, 1972, by James Hussey
  • The record-breaking fish, which is also the All-tackle World Record, weighed 31 pounds and 12 ounces

Did you know?

  • The scope of North Carolina’s authority to manage Bluefish is limited to actions which are consistent with federal fishery management plans developed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
  • Bluefish migrate in the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean from Maine to Florida and are commonly found in North Carolina’s estuaries from March through October.
  • Known to be voracious feeders, large schools of Bluefish can be seen shredding baitfish during what’s commonly called a Bluefish “blitz”
  • Spawning occurs offshore from Massachusetts to Florida

2022 Harvest Seasons for Bluefish

  • The recreational limit for Bluefish is currently 3 fish per day, except persons fishing on a for-hire vessel can keep 5 fish per day. There is no size limit. 
  • Commercial Bluefish landings are managed through an annual quota which was set at 1,056,058 pounds in 2020. Daily trip limits are commonly required. Proclamations for Bluefish can be found here.

What’s next?

FINDEX provides the most recent stock status updates for a variety of North Carolina’s finfish species. As new data is made available, FINDEX values will be revised. If you’re interested, new FINDEX profiles can be delivered to you directly if you subscribe to our newsletter.

Formed in 2017, the N.C. Marine and Estuary Foundation was established to support world-class fisheries and thriving coastal economies. In achieving this goal, the N.C. Marine and Estuary Foundation equips citizens, researchers, legislators, policymakers, stakeholders, and other organizations with high-quality scientific information to help solve challenging fisheries issues.