MEPS 518:239-254 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11060

Fish sound production and acoustic telemetry reveal behaviors and spatial patterns associated with spawning aggregations of two Caribbean groupers

Timothy J. Rowell1,3,*, Richard S. Nemeth2, Michelle T. Schärer3, Richard S. Appeldoorn

1Marine Biology Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego,
9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, California 92093, USA
2Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, University of the Virgin Islands, 2 John Brewer’s Bay, St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands 00802, USA
3Department of Marine Sciences and Caribbean Coral Reef Institute, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, PO Box 9000, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico 00681-9013, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Regional abundances of Nassau grouper Epinephelus striatus and yellowfin grouper Mycteroperca venenosa have declined due to overfishing of their spawning aggregations, prompting permanent and seasonal fisheries closures in the US Virgin Islands (USVI). As both species produce sounds associated with reproductive behaviors (courtship-associated sounds;CAS), passive acoustic and acoustic telemetry methods were used to determine temporal patterns of reproductive activity, site usage, and fish movements in order to assess the effectiveness of current management strategies at 2 marine protected areas (MPAs) in the USVI: the Grammanik Bank (GB) and Hind Bank Marine Conservation District (MCD). Patterns of sound production and ultrasonic acoustic tag detections showed that both species formed spawning aggregations from January through May at the GB, highlighting the current seasonal regulations (1 February to 30 April) as insufficient for protecting spawning stocks during the entire reproductive season. Acoustic tagging confirmed connectivity between the GB and MCD and exposed the broad extent of habitat used, including non-protected areas, during the spawning season. Spawning did not likely occur within the MCD, but the MPA did support abundances of calling individuals during spawning periods, indicating that both species produce CAS away from their spawning sites. This finding coupled with the detection of routine migrations between spawning and non-spawning sites presents a potential mechanism to lead conspecifics to the aggregation site and thereby increase reproductive fitness and spawning output.


KEY WORDS: Nassau grouper · Epinephelus striatus · Yellowfin grouper · Mycteroperca venenosa · Passive acoustics · Ultrasonic acoustic tagging · Fish movement patterns · Marine protected area


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Cite this article as: Rowell TJ, Nemeth RS, Schärer MT, Appeldoorn RS (2015) Fish sound production and acoustic telemetry reveal behaviors and spatial patterns associated with spawning aggregations of two Caribbean groupers. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 518:239-254. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11060

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