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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 7:213-220 (2009)  -  DOI:

Evaluation of finrays as a non-lethal ageing method for protected goliath grouper Epinephelus itajara

Debra J. Murie1,*, Daryl C. Parkyn1, Christopher C. Koenig2, Felicia C. Coleman2, Jennifer Schull3, Sarah Frias-Torres4

1School of Forest Resources and Conservation, Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, University of Florida, 7922 NW 71st Street, Gainesville, Florida 32653, USA
2Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory, 3618 Coastal Highway, St. Teresa, Florida 32358, USA
3NOAA-Fisheries, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, 75 Virginia Beach Drive, Miami, Florida 33149, USA
4Ocean Research and Conservation Association, 1420 Seaway Drive, Fort Pierce, Florida 34949 USA

ABSTRACT: Currently, there is a conflict between the need to conserve protected fish species and the need to use lethal methods to collect essential biological data, such as age, to assess their population status and recovery trends. We evaluated the precision and accuracy of a non-lethal ageing method for goliath grouper Epinephelus itajara, listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Paired finray and otolith samples (n = 21) were collected opportunistically from fish that had died primarily from red tide or hypothermal events in Florida coastal waters. Finray ageing proved relatively precise (coefficient of variation [CV] = 4.24%), although less so than otolith ageing (CV = 1.45%). Finray ages agreed with otolith ages the majority of the time (CV = 3.15% and concordance correlation coefficient = 0.991) for E. itajara from 0 to 18 yr of age. Based on a test of symmetry, finray ageing was also relatively unbiased for fish up to 18 yr of age. Further evaluation of any limitations of the method will depend on obtaining more samples, especially from larger, presumably older, fish. Clearly, the non-lethal finray ageing method can be used as an alternative to using otoliths for goliath grouper at least up to 18 yr of age. Finray ageing could significantly reduce the need to sacrifice protected E. itajara to assess their population recovery.

KEY WORDS: Epinephelus itajara · Goliath grouper · Otoliths · Finrays · Non-lethal ageing · Florida

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Cite this article as: Murie DJ, Parkyn DC, Koenig CC, Coleman FC, Schull J, Frias-Torres S (2009) Evaluation of finrays as a non-lethal ageing method for protected goliath grouper Epinephelus itajara. Endang Species Res 7:213-220.

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