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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 616:123-139 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12944

Home range and spawning migration patterns of queen triggerfish Balistes vetula in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

David R. Bryan1,2,*, Michael W. Feeley3, Richard S. Nemeth4, Clayton Pollock5, Jerald S. Ault1

1University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Department of Marine Ecosystems and Society, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149, USA
2Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, 7600 Sand Point Way N.E., Seattle, WA 98115, USA
3National Park Service, South Florida/Caribbean Inventory and Monitoring Network, 18001 Old Cutler Rd Suite 419, Palmetto Bay, FL 33157, USA
4University of the Virgin Islands, Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, 2 John Brewers Bay, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands 00802, USA
5National Park Service, Buck Island National Park, 2100 Church St. #100, Christiansted, US Virgin Islands 00820, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Queen triggerfish Balistes vetula are an ecologically and economically important species associated with coral reefs throughout the tropical Atlantic Ocean. To better understand spatial and temporal movement patterns and help determine the effectiveness of a no-take marine reserve (Buck Island Reef National Monument, BIRNM), 55 queen triggerfish were surgically implanted with acoustic transmitters and tracked for 434.6 ± 27.3 d (mean ± SE) within a large acoustic array in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. Queen triggerfish displayed high site fidelity within the reserve during non-spawning months. Home range sizes, as measured by 95% minimum convex polygons and kernel utilization distributions, averaged 2.44 ± 0.30 and 3.34 ± 0.17 km2, respectively. High site fidelity was interrupted briefly during full moons from November to March (2015-2017), when 22% of the tagged population (n = 12) undertook repeated migrations to a nesting area located approximately 12 km from BIRNM. During the same-season spawning periods, 5 other fish were exclusively detected at a receiver station within the reserve, indicating a possible local nesting area and resident (non-migratory) contingent of queen triggerfish. The high site fidelity of queen triggerfish during non-spawning months coupled with the discovery of a resident spawning population highlights the importance of BIRNM as a potential refuge from local fishing pressures. This study provides improved understanding of queen triggerfish movement ecology, an extremely valuable asset for the development of spatial management strategies throughout their range.


KEY WORDS: Movement ecology · Marine reserves · Partial migration · Fisheries management · Acoustic telemetry · Balistidae · Spawning aggregation


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Cite this article as: Bryan DR, Feeley MW, Nemeth RS, Pollock C, Ault JS (2019) Home range and spawning migration patterns of queen triggerfish Balistes vetula in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 616:123-139. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12944

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