Spawning, aggregations and connectivity in the Gulf

Many economically important coral reef fishes (e.g., groupers, snappers) in the Gulf migrate to specific places to form spawning aggregations and can result in tens to thousands of fish in a single location during spawning events.  However, spawning aggregations are often targeted by anglers, resulting in intense fishing effort that can negatively affect fish populations.  Also, the impacts may go undetected as many stock exhibit hyperstability, meaning that catch rates may remain high even as the stock condition is declining.  This can ultimately lead to stock collapse as indicators of declining stock condition, such as reduced catch per unit effort may not be detected until the stock size is very small, making fishing on spawning aggregations risky.

Protecting the potential reef fish migration routes (connectivity routes), as well as spawning aggregation sites, can provide regional benefits to fisheries by ensuring the sustainability of the stock for the fishers. Explore learning module that highlights known coral and fish aggregations, spawning areas in the Gulf, and known connectivity among these locations.