Fish Spawning Aggregation Sites in the MBRS Region: Recommendations for monitoring and management

Heyman, W. and Requena, N. and Paz, M. and Hidalgo, H. and Fuentes, J. A. and Sosa, E. and Rhodes, K. and Kjerfve, B. (2003) Fish Spawning Aggregation Sites in the MBRS Region: Recommendations for monitoring and management. Technical Report.

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    This document serves as the Final Report for the MBRS Project on the monitoring and management of spawning aggregations within the MBRS region. It is accompanied by three national reports – for Mexico, Belize, Honduras, as well as database materials, GIS maps, and a spawning aggregation monitoring protocol. Since the accompanying documents serve as backup to this document, we have intentionally kept this document short and synthesized to facilitate its utility and the implementation of the recommendations, herein. Spawning aggregations for reef fish species occur at discreet times and places (Domeier and Colin, 1997). These are critical life phases in the lives of reef fishes and generally represent all of the annual reproductive output from these species (Shapiro et al., 1993). Significant evidence exists from within Belize and other areas of the Caribbean that these sites are highly vulnerable to overfishing and aggregations of Nassau grouper, Epinephelus striatus, the beststudied species, have been extirpated in many areas (Sadovy, 1994; Sadovy and Eklund, 1999). Spawning aggregation sites for reef fishes, throughout the MBRS region are in need of immediate management and monitoring (Coleman et al., 1999). Belize has made great progress in recent years on the monitoring and management of spawning aggregations. Monitoring of these sites in Belize has been relatively comprehensive, with coordinated national assessments in January 2001, 2002, and 2003 and May 2003, plus comprehensive monitoring at Northern Glover’s Reef and at Gladden Spit. Assessments have also been completed at varying times of year at several other places. The spawning aggregations of Belize are probably the best studied in the world, and these studies can serve as guide to other monitoring efforts. Recent findings suggest that many of the spawning areas are utilized by many species for spawning, at varying times of year. Therefore, the Government of Belize has enacted legislation that places 11 of these multi-species spawning aggregation sites into marine reserves that restrict all fishing. Further legislation protects the endangered Nassau grouper completely between December and March every year. Monitoring in Belize requires further investigation of the multi-species aspects of the aggregations via monitoring many sites at varying times of year. Mexico has known of several spawning aggregation sites, and in some cases enacted monitoring and protection of them. This study, however, has expanded the known number of sites from 10 to 39, based on interviews with fishermen. Very few of these sites have been assessed and, to date, none are fully protected. Mexico appears to have infrastructure in place for comprehensive monitoring and management of spawning aggregations, particularly in Sian Ka’an, Banco Chinchorro, Xcalak, and Mahajual. In each of these locations, comprehensive assessments during January and April/May, should reveal the pattern of utilization by various species at these sites. For Honduras, the present study increases the number of suspected spawning aggregations via interviews with fishermen, though field verification is needed to corroborate information. The most important information that has been gleaned concerns a mutton snapper, Lutjanus analis, migration that takes place along the north costs from west to east in the months of October and November. Comprehensive data from Belize collected over the last 4 years and synthesized by The Nature Conservancy suggest that spawning aggregation sites, particularly those at reef promontories that jut windward into deep waters, support multi-species spawning aggregation sites that are utilized through much of the year (Heyman and Boucher unpublished manuscript). This report details how these sites can be successfully predicted using analysis of Landsat TM imagery. This report further details recommendation for the evaluation and monitoring of these sites, based on data gathered in Belize. Finally, the report offers suggestion for management of spawning aggregations. Recommendations are included within the report for the management of spawning aggregation sites and the regional harmonization of policies to protect them. We recommend that if data are available that confirm the presence of a multi-species spawning aggregation; the site should be closed to fishing year-round. We also recommend closed seasons be enacted for particularly endangered or threatened species such as Nassau grouper, Epinephelus striatus: either a closed season from December to March as enacted for Belize or a complete ban on the species as has been enacted in the state of Florida. Should total closures be politically impossible, we suggest that only handline fishing be allowed on aggregations and migration routes (no spears, traps, nets, diving, etc.). Finally, we recommend the development of economic alternatives for displaced fishers such as involvement in monitoring, management and research, ecotourism, etc. Carefully monitored ecotourism at these sites, particularly involving displaced fishers, should be explored on an experimental basis and should be carefully managed to avoid impacts to the aggregations. Via a priority setting exercise, also described herein, we have suggested an initial series of priority sites for monitoring throughout the region, based on the ecological importance, the vulnerability, and the capacity for monitoring and management at the sites. Through this exercise we have selected 1 – 4 high priority sites in each country that should undergo intensive monitoring, 2 – 10 sites per country that should undergo semi-intensive monitoring, and a remainder of sites (including new sites predicted from satellite imagery) that should undergo exploratory monitoring. These priorities might change as new data becomes available. To accomplish all of these recommendations will require close coordination between many groups, including the MBRS project, The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund for Nature, Wildlife Conservation Society, and myriad local non-government organizations, funding agencies, tour operators, fishers, and national governments in each of four MBRS countries. This coordination will include data sharing and standardization, and sharing of the burden of funding support in coordinated ways to enhance rather than duplicate existing efforts.

    Item Type: Technical Reports (Technical Report)
    Related URLs:
      Publisher: The Nature Conservancy
      Keywords: spawning, aggregation, MBRS, recommendations, monitoring, management
      Subjects: (A) Biodiversity > (AC) Fish > (ACB) Marine
      (H) Protected Areas > (HI) Spawning Aggregation
      Publication Sources: (3) Other Source > (3B) NGOs
      Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2010 09:55
      Last Modified: 20 Jan 2011 14:29

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