Biologists See Spawning Fish in Marine Protected Area in Florida

Written by on July 29, 2009 in Marine Life, Policy & Ocean Law
Large school of mutton snapper in the Tortugas - Image Credit: D. DeMaria/FWC

Large school of mutton snapper in the Tortugas – Image Credit: D. DeMaria/FWC

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced that biologists recently witnessed the extraordinary sight of mutton snapper, a threatened species listed on the IUCN Red List since 2006, in the Florida Keys.

For the first time in Florida waters, scientists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of South Florida observed this species spawning (depositing large quantities of eggs in water) in a Marine Protected Area in the Florida Keys.  The site was established, in part, to protect spawning schools of snapper and grouper in the Tortugas Ecological Reserve.

Florida Plateau - Wikipedia Commons

Florida Plateau – Wikipedia Commons

Mutton snapper is an important species to both recreational and commercial fisheries.  When fish group together in large numbers to spawn, they are more vulnerable to fishing pressure.  Allowing the fish to spawn without angler pressure will help sustain the fishery.  The data collected from this study will help biologists understand the effectiveness of creating no-take Marine Protected Areas to protect a variety of sea life, including fish and coral reefs.

Biologists spotted the large school of spawning snapper while working on an acoustic tagging project, which will afford information about the movement, spawning and migratory habits of snappers and groupers.  They conducted surgeries underwater at depths of up to 120 feet to implant acoustic tags inside the fish, a practice that causes less stress to the fish than bringing them to the surface by conventional hook-and-line methods to complete the surgeries.

Biologists will continue to receive data from the tagged fish for the next few years.  This information will help them learn more about the movement, spawning and migratory habits of these fish.

Copyright ©  2009 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC

About the Author

About the Author: Celia is Director of Business Operations for OceanLines LLC and is a frequent contributor to both OceanLines and Marine Science Today. She is a certified diver and her favorite topic is marine biology, especially stories about whales. .

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