Reproductive movement, residency and fisheries vulnerability of brown-marbled grouper, Epinephelus fuscoguttatus (Forsskål, 1775)
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The brown-marbled grouper, Epinephelus fuscoguttatus, is a long-lived, late-maturing protogynous species listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN. In Pohnpei, Micronesia, reproductively active brown-marbled grouper were tagged with acoustic and spaghetti-type tags at a multi-species fish spawning aggregation (FSA) site to establish patterns of movement, residency and seasonality. Telemetry confirmed the use of common reproductive migratory corridors and significant sex-specific variations in residency at the FSA. Combined underwater visual census and telemetry data verified a 3-month peak aggregation period, with aggregations forming and persisting over ca. 12 days prior to full moon between January and May. FSA formation coincided with seasonally low and relatively stable seawater temperatures. Some males frequented the FSA site during each aggregation month over two consecutive years. Conversely, most females were present at the FSA during only a single aggregation period, with the month of visitation consistent among years. Nearly two-thirds of tagged fish were relocated or recaptured within 11 km of the aggregation site, with a maximum detected distance of 26 km and a minimum estimated catchment area of 100–175 km2. Findings highlight the need for a combined approach to management that prohibits the capture and sale of reproductive adults and protects both spawning sites and common reproductive migratory corridors during aggregation periods.
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