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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 671:129-145 (2021)  -  DOI:

Size at sexual maturity and seasonal reproductive activity of the Caribbean spiny lobster Panulirus argus

Nicole A. M. Atherley1,2,*, Michelle M. Dennis1,3, Donald C. Behringer4,5, Mark A. Freeman1

1Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, West Farm, Basseterre, Saint Kitts and Nevis, West Indies
2Caribaea Initiative, Université des Antilles, Pointe-Á-Pitre, Guadeloupe
3Department of Biomedical and Diagnostic Sciences, University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA
4Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32653, USA
5Emerging Pathogens Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The Caribbean spiny lobster Panulirus argus, a long-lived decapod crustacean, is fished throughout its geographical range and generates close to 1 billion US dollars annually. Fisheries across this range are fully- or over-exploited, spurring management strategies such as closed seasons and minimum size limitations. The objective of this study was to determine the minimum legal size and appropriate closed season for the lobster population of Saint Kitts and Nevis by assessing and comparing the functional, physiological and morphological determinants of sexual maturity. Such a comparison has never been attempted for this species. Females did not reach functional maturity until 87.8 mm carapace length (CL) based on the presence of a spermatophore and eggs, but reached morphological maturity based on the presence of ovigerous setae at 72.5 mm CL. Physiological maturity was intermediate at 82.8 mm CL. Determinants of functional maturity overestimate the size at sexual maturity, while the presence of ovigerous setae underestimates it. The gonadosomatic index, a reliable method of assessing physiological maturity in female P. argus, can be used to monitor changes in reproductive activity in both males and females. Gross assessment of the ovary may be used to determine size at physiological maturity, and functional maturity can be used to calculate peak periods of reproduction. The peak physiological and functional maturity for P. argus occurs from March to May. As a result, we propose a closed season from March to June and suggest assessment of reproductive dynamics in order to determine minimum legal size for harvesting P. argus.

KEY WORDS: Fisheries · Size at maturity · Closed season · Gonadosomatic index · Histology

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Cite this article as: Atherley NAM, Dennis MM, Behringer DC, Freeman MA (2021) Size at sexual maturity and seasonal reproductive activity of the Caribbean spiny lobster Panulirus argus. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 671:129-145.

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