Black grouper aggregations in relation to protected areas within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Abstract:During the winter of 1997–1998, we discovered an aggregation of black grouper, Mycteroperca bonaci, less than 100 m outside a newly designated marine reserve. The spawning mode and aggregation behavior of black grouper have not been reported previously, even though this species is an important component of both the recreational and commercial fishing sectors of the Florida Keys. The grouper aggregation included up to 96 individuals just seaward of a no-take area within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. We documented the seasonal and spatial distribution of the aggregation during a series of drift dives over the presumed spawning area. In January and February of 1998, the black grouper were aggregated in a spatially discrete 100-m2 area in 18–28 m of water. By April the number had declined, and their distribution had become more even, rather than aggregated. Although the marine reserve offers total protection from all fishing activity, these groupers were susceptible to being caught in large numbers, as the entire aggregation remained in waters deeper than the reserve boundary. If the reserve boundary were moved seaward beyond the slope-sand interface along the 30-m contour, the vulnerable aggregation would be protected.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: May 1, 2000
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