Coral Reefs

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 765–775 | Cite as

Spatial, temporal, and environmental dynamics of a multi-species epinephelid spawning aggregation in Pohnpei, Micronesia

  • K. L. Rhodes
  • R. S. Nemeth
  • E. Kadison
  • E. Joseph


Long-term and short-term underwater visual censuses using SCUBA, technical Nitrox, and closed circuit rebreathers (CCR) were carried out in Pohnpei, Micronesia, to define spatial and temporal dynamics within a semi-protected multi-species epinephelid (fish) spawning aggregation (FSA) of brown-marbled grouper, Epinephelus fuscoguttatus, camouflage grouper, Epinephelus polyphekadion, and squaretail coralgrouper, Plectropomus areolatus. Results identified species-specific patterns of habitat use, abundance, residency, and dispersal of FSAs. Fish spawning aggregations formed and dispersed monthly within a 21–160-d period after winter solstice within adjacent yet distinct outer reef habitats. The reproductive season coincided with periods of seasonally low sub-surface seawater temperature. Peaks in density varied among species both within the calendar year and relative to the winter solstice. Significant long-term declines in FSA density were observed for all three species, suggesting population-level fishery-induced impacts, similar to those previously reported for E. polyphekadion. Differences in density estimates were also observed between dive gear, with a threefold difference in densities measured by CCR for E. polyphekadion versus SCUBA that suggest a disturbance effect from exhaled SCUBA bubbles for this species. CCR also allowed surveys to be conducted over a larger area in a single dive, thereby improving the potential to gauge actual abundance and density within FSAs. Based on these findings, a combination of long-term and intensive short-term monitoring strategies is recommended to fully characterize trends in seasonal abundance and habitat use for aggregating species at single or multi-species FSA sites. Inherent variations in the timing and distribution of species within FSA make fine-scale temporal management protocols less effective than blanket protective coverage of these species at (e.g., marine protected areas covering FSAs and adjacent migratory corridors) and away from (i.e., temporal sales and catch restrictions) FSA sites.


Epinephelidae Fish spawning aggregations Pacific Ocean Technical diving Fisheries management 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. L. Rhodes
    • 1
  • R. S. Nemeth
    • 2
  • E. Kadison
    • 2
  • E. Joseph
    • 3
  1. 1.The University of Hawaii at HiloHiloUSA
  2. 2.Center for Marine and Environmental StudiesThe University of the Virgin IslandsSt. ThomasUSA
  3. 3.Conservation Society of PohnpeiKolonia, PohnpeiUSA

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