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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13448

Movement patterns of red snapper Lutjanus campechanus based on acoustic telemetry around oil and gas platforms in the northern Gulf of Mexico

Aminda G. Everett, Stephen T. Szedlmayer*, Benny J. Gallaway

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Offshore oil and gas platforms in the northern Gulf of Mexico are known aggregation sites for red snapper Lutjanus campechanus. To examine habitat use and potential mortality from explosive platform removals, fine-scale movements of red snapper were estimated based on acoustic telemetry from March 2017 to July 2018. Study sites included one platform off coastal Alabama (30.09º N, -87.88º W) and two platforms off Louisiana, USA (28.81º N, -91.97º W; 28.92º N, -93.15º W) in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Red snapper (n = 59) showed a high affinity for platforms with most (94%) positions within 95 m of the platforms. Home range areas were correlated to water temperature and inversely correlated to dissolved oxygen concentrations. During summer and fall, red snapper used larger areas and many fish (54%) emigrated from their platforms but most (83%) returned in £ 3 d. Site fidelity for red snapper was 31% y-1, and residency time was 7 months, but the probability-of-presence at platforms was 70% after one year indicating the importance of platforms for this species. Overall fishing mortality was high for platforms with F = 0.86 (95% CL = 0.47 – 1.40), but since the stock is managed on a quota basis this high mortality should have little effect on the total stock abundance. Thus, platforms can still provide an important habitat for red snapper and consideration of area use patterns, fishing mortality and environmental factors can reduce red snapper mortality when scheduling explosive platform removals. As such, the present study indicated an optimum time for explosive removal would be in late summer after the red snapper fishing season is completed.