ASSESSMENT OF THE SPATIAL STRUCTURE, GENETIC DIVERSITY, AND TEMPORAL EFFECTIVE POPULATION SIZE OF RED PORGY (Pagrus pagrus) IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC BIGHT, 1978 - 2010
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Red porgy, Pagrus pagrus, is a protogynous hermaphroditic reef fish that associates with hard-bottom habitats in temperate waters. Red porgy has been a recreational and commercially important species over the past 30 years, and is managed as a single species in the Snapper-Grouper complex under the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (SAFMC). During the early 1980's, increased fishing pressure began to significantly reduce the population in the South Atlantic Bight (Cape Hatteras, NC to Cape Canaveral, FL) resulting in a moratorium being enacted in 1999. The aim of my study was to determine how fishing pressure over the past 40 years has affected the genetic diversity of the South Atlantic Bight population of red porgy using nine microsatellite loci. An initial spatial evaluation of genetic diversity within the South Atlantic Bight was used to verify the previously identified lack of genetic structure using more robust sampling and marker designs. Genetic data coupled with life history data were used for a temporal comparison of allelic diversity, heterozygosity, and effective population size. Temporal analysis indicated that the genetic diversity of the stock has not been compromised with reductions in population size. Additionally, effective population size was estimated to be several orders of magnitude lower than census size (Ne = 179 - 1592), but remained relatively unchanged through time. The red porgy population has been experiencing heavy fishing pressure over the past 40 years, but appears to have maintained its genetic stability. However, the South Atlantic Bight red porgy is not in an optimal state and future efforts should continue to rebuild the population.