Volume 70

Managing Fish Spawning Aggregations in a Changing Climate: A Case Study of Red Hind (Epinephelus guttatus) in Bermuda

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Date: November, 2017

Pages: 306-308

Event: Proceedings of the Seventy Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: Merida, Yucatan

Country: México


Many species of groupers (Serranidae) spawn in large aggregations that form in specific locations at predictable times, making them vulnerable to overexploitation, so prohibiting fishing on spawning aggregations is now considered best practice. Bermuda has protected spawning aggregations of the Red Hind (Epinephelus guttatus) since the 1970s, closing known spawning areas to fishing during the spawning season (May 1 through August 31) each year. However, the timing of spawning is determined by a number of factors, including temperature, and ocean temperature regimes are changing along with the global climate. The Bermuda Department of Environment and Natural Resources received reports of large catches of Red Hind from the spawning aggregation areas during the month of April in both 2014 and 2016, although not in 2015. We therefore conducted a retrospective analysis of catch reports in conjunction with climate records and moon phase data, and examined vessel activity at the sites during April of 2016. This showed that in the two years with large April catches, both March and April temperatures were substantially above the long term averages. In order to continue to provide effective protection to Red Hinds while they are spawning, a variety of management responses were considered, including a reactive model that would be triggered by elevated temperatures. Following consultation with stakeholders, it was determined that a fixed start to the closed season was preferred, but that closing the areas earlier in the year should be balanced by an earlier re-opening time. Therefore, the Red hind spawning aggregation areas will now be closed to fishing from April 15 through August 14 each year. An acoustic tagging study is currently underway to monitor the presence of Red Hinds at one aggregation site over the next five years.

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