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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI:

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

Nicole A. M. Atherley*, Michelle M. Dennis, Donald C. Behringer, Mark A. Freeman

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus, a long-lived decapod crustacean, is fished throughout its geographical range and generates close to one billion 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 CL based on the presence of a spermatophore and eggs but reached morphometric maturity based on the presence of ovigerous setae occurred 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 P. argus.