Managed reef fish in the Atlantic Ocean of the southeastern United States (SEUS) support a multi-billion dollar industry. There is a broad interest in locating and protecting spawning fish from harvest, to enhance productivity and reduce the potential for overfishing. We assessed spatiotemporal cues for spawning for six species from four reef fish families, using data on individual spawning condition collected by over three decades of regional fishery-independent reef fish surveys, combined with a series of predictors derived from bathymetric features. We quantified the size of spawning areas used by reef fish across many years and identified several multispecies spawning locations. We quantitatively identified cues for peak spawning and generated predictive maps for Gray Triggerfish (Balistes capriscus), White Grunt (Haemulon plumierii), Red Snapper (Lutjanus campechanus), Vermilion Snapper (Rhomboplites aurorubens), Black Sea Bass (Centropristis striata), and Scamp (Mycteroperca phenax). For example, Red Snapper peak spawning was predicted in 24.7±29.0ÊC water prior to the new moon at locations with high curvature in the 24±30 m depth range off northeast Florida during June and July. External validation using scientific and fisherydependent data collections strongly supported the predictive utility of our models. We identified locations where reconfiguration or expansion of existing marine protected areas would protect spawning reef fish. We recommend increased sampling off southern Florida (south of 27Ê N), during winter months, and in high-relief, high current habitats to improve our understanding of timing and location of reef fish spawning off the southeastern United States.
Farmer NA, Heyman WD, Karnauskas M, Kobara S, Smart TI, Ballenger JC, et al. (2017) Timing and locations of reef fish spawning off the southeastern United States. PLoS ONE 12(3): e0172968. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0172968