Annual, lunar and diel reproductive periodicity of a spawning aggregation of snapper Pagrus auratus (Sparidae) in a marine embayment on the lower west coast of Australia
Ichthyoplankton sampling and ovarian characteristics were used to elucidate whether the reproductive cycles of a spawning aggregation of snapper Pagrus auratus in a nearshore marine embayment were temporally and spatially specific and related with environmental conditions. The reproductive dynamics of this aggregation were studied over four consecutive years (2001–2004). Spawning occurred between September and January each year, when water temperatures ranged from 15·8 to 23·1° C. In all 4 years, the cumulative egg densities in Cockburn Sound were highest when water temperatures were between the narrow range of 19–20° C. The spawning fraction of females was monthly bimodal and peaked during new and the full moons at 96–100% and c. 75%, respectively. The backcalculated ages of P. auratus eggs collected from 16 ichthyoplankton surveys demonstrated that P. auratus in Cockburn Sound spawn at night during the 3 h following the high tide. The spatial distributions of P. auratus eggs in Cockburn Sound during the peak reproductive period in all 4 years were consistent, further implying spawning was temporally and spatially specific. High concentrations of recently spawned eggs (8–16 h old) demonstrated spawning also occurred within the adjacent marine embayments of Owen Anchorage and Warnbro Sound. Water circulation in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds resembled an eddy that was most prominent during the period of highest egg densities, thereby facilitating the retention of eggs in these areas. The reproductive cycles of P. auratus described in this study have assisted managers with the appropriate temporal and spatial scale for a closed fishing season to protect these spawning aggregations.