Assessment of an unprotected red hind (Epinephelus guttatus) spawning aggregation on Saba Bank in the Netherlands Antilles

Although little fisheries data exist for red hind, Epinephelus guttatus (Linnaeus, 1758) on the Saba Bank, Netherlands Antilles, spawning aggregation characteristics from other populations can be used to assess the health of a red hind spawning population previously undocumented there. In December 2005, a spawning aggregation site for red hind was surveyed on Saba Bank at 17°33.6´N, 63°17.7´W. Red hind aggregated on the northeast edge of the bank, in an area of 0.053 km2 . Spawning occurred in January 2006 during the week prior to and possibly after the full moon. Reproductively developed males and females were collected from December through February, however, in January average fish density increased from 1.46 ± 0.26 fish 100 m–2 to 34.27 ± 2.20 fish 100 m–2 and the M:F sex ratio shifted from 4:1 to unity. Fish were observed exhibiting little territorial or haremic behavior. Gonadosomatic indices in females reached high daily averages in January and February of 15.86 ± 5.4 and 6.93 ± 2.40 respectively, one day prior to the full moon. Average daily water temperature dropped throughout the study period, and during the week prior to the full moon in January, ranged from 26.7 °C to 26.5 °C. Current direction was dominated by tidal fluctuations but during the spawning period was predominantly directed to the southwest. Comparison of spawning population characteristics across red hind aggregation sites in the eastern Caribbean under varying degrees of protection suggests that the Saba Bank aggregation is moderately exploited and should be monitored and more closely managed.

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