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Visitation patterns of camouflage groupers Epinephelus polyphekadion at a spawning aggregation in Fakarava inferred by acoustic telemetry

Abstract

Many species of groupers form transient fish spawning aggregations (FSAs) that are both spatially and temporally predictable, making them highly vulnerable to fishing. Consequently, many known aggregations have disappeared, making the collection of additional baseline data imperative to inform management actions and decisions that have the capacity to protect these important areas in the long term. Using acoustic telemetry and underwater observations, we document the spatio-temporal dynamics of the camouflage grouper Epinephelus polyphekadion at a FSA in Fakarava, French Polynesia. We show that grouper arrival at the aggregation site started 2 weeks before the full moon with a core area density that increased from 0.13 to 1.25 fish m−2 during the observation period. Following reproduction, almost all camouflage groupers left the FSA site within 48 h. Among 30 tagged groupers in 2011 and despite a relatively low receiver coverage in the pass, 30% returned to the FSA the following year confirming patterns of FSA site fidelity of the species found in previous studies at other locations. Our results confirm that the current management procedures protecting the FSA under the UNESCO biosphere reserve are critical in maintaining the functional role of the FSA by ensuring the persistence and sustainability of large and healthy populations of groupers and sharks.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the Ministry for Environment, Sustainable Development and Energy in France, Direction de l’Environnement (DIREN) of French Polynesia, IFRECOR France, IFRECOR Polynesia, BlancPain Ocean Commitment, and Arte. We thank T. Vignaud, A. Guilbert, S. Dumont, M. Lefevre, C. Gentil, Y. Gentil, Y. Hubert, R. Rinaldi, J.-M. Belin, S. Girardot, G. Kebaili, F. Blanchard, M. Taquet, M. L. Domeier, and Y. Sadovy for assistance with the fieldwork. We also thank M. L. Domeier for kindly supplying acoustic receivers. We thank S. and A. Richemond from Tetamanu lodging for hosting the research team and for providing technical assistance during the fieldwork. We are also grateful to Jeanine Almany for English reviewing.

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Correspondence to Johann Mourier.

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Mourier, J., Ballesta, L., Clua, E. et al. Visitation patterns of camouflage groupers Epinephelus polyphekadion at a spawning aggregation in Fakarava inferred by acoustic telemetry. Coral Reefs 38, 909–916 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-019-01814-8

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Keywords

  • Serranidae: Epinephelinae
  • Epinephelus polyphekadion
  • Reproduction
  • Conservation
  • Fakarava
  • French Polynesia