Scientific information on reef fish spawning aggregation fisheries is sparse in light of numerous regional declines and extirpations from overexploitation. Fisher interviews of the small-scale commercial mutton snapper (Lutjanus analis) spawning aggregation fishery at Gladden Spit, Belize, suggests a historic decadal decline. The reported trend is supported by analysis of inter-seasonal catch and effort and yield (2000-2002) that reveals a 59% decline in catch per unit effort (CPUE) and a 22% decrease in mean landings per boat. Declining population-level trends are also supported by a significant decrease in inter-annual median lengths of mutton snappers (2000-2006). These findings demonstrate the need for additional life history information that includes length-associated age and details on growth to provide clearer support of the effects on, and responses by, populations following fishing. In view of the historical changes to mutton snapper CPUE and landings at Gladden Spit and the fishery-associated declines in fish spawning aggregations observed globally, a precautionary approach to spawning aggregation management is warranted that provides full protection from fishing to enhance population persistence. The findings also highlight the need for substantially greater enforcement and long-term fisheries monitoring under a comprehensive regional management strategy.
- spawning aggregation
- marine protected area