Prediction and verification of possible reef-fish spawning aggregation sites in Los Roques Archipelago National Park, Venezuela

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Abstract:

This study attempts to predict and verify possible spawning aggregation sites and times in the Los Roques Archipelago National Park, Venezuela, based on physical reef characteristics and the knowledge of experienced local fishermen. Three possible aggregation sites were selected for monitoring based on satellite images, low-cost bathymetric mapping and interviews with experienced local fishermen. Abundances and sizes of 18 species that are known to form reproductive aggregations were monitored at these sites using underwater visual census for 7 days after each full moon from February to August, 2007. While spawning events were not observed, possible indirect evidence of spawning aggregations was found for Lutjanus analis at Cayo Sal and Boca de Sebastopol, Lutjanus apodus at Cayo Sal, Lutjanus cyanopterus at Cayo Sal and Piedra La Guasa and Epinephelus guttatus at Bajo California and Cayo de Agua. Additionally, indirect evidence was identified for the past existence of a spawning aggregation of Epinephelus striatus in the northern part of the archipelago, which may have been eliminated by overfishing c.15 years ago. Bathymetric mapping showed that the shelf edge at sites monitored in this study was shallower than at spawning aggregation sites in other parts of the Caribbean, and that sites were not proximal to deep water. While this study does not prove the existence or locations of spawning aggregations of reef fishes in the archipelago, it does add insight to a growing understanding of generalities in the relationship between seafloor characteristics and the locations of transient reef-fish spawning aggregations in the Caribbean.

Keywords: bathymetric mapping; traditional knowledge; visual census

Document Type: Regular Paper

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8649.2010.02704.x

Affiliations: 1: Departamento de Biología de Organismos, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Apartado 89000, Caracas 1080A, Venezuela 2: Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-3147, U.S.A.

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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