AGE, GROWTH, AND REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY OF A DATA-DEFICIENT PARROTFISH SPECIES (<i>SPARISOMA VIRIDE</i>) IN THE US CARIBBEAN
Wagner, Graham Alexander
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Coral reef ecosystems are declining globally, and anthropogenic influences have caused a shift from coral dominated reefs to algal dominated reefs. Reef grazers, like parrotfish, feed on algae growing in and on corals and prevent algal domination. In the US Caribbean, Stoplight Parrotfish (<i>Sparisoma viride</i>) is the most landed parrotfish species and has experienced dramatic increases in fishing pressures in recent years; however, recent stock assessments have been unsuccessful, citing a lack of basic life history information. This study addressed these data gaps, using a combination of fisheries-dependent and -independent samples to compare age, growth, and reproductive biology of Stoplight Parrotfish in Puerto Rico (PR), St Thomas (STT), and St Croix (STX). In all three islands, Stoplight Parrotfish showed year-round spawning seasonality with the potential for daily spawning. A small proportion of males appear to utilize an alternative mating strategy to avoid competition with haremic males, and some large females may maximize reproductive success by not undergoing sexual transition. Size and age structure differed significantly between the three islands, with more small fish in PR compared to STT and STX, and a smaller range of ages in STT. Fish from STT also grew more quickly and reached sexual maturity at a larger size than fish from PR and STX. Differences between the sampling locations may reflect differences in the gear and practices of the fisheries of the islands themselves, which supports the notion of island-specific management and regulations. The results of this study can be used for more successful stock assessments, and for creation of fishing regulations to protect these vital reef grazers.