Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 78, Issue 4, pp 365–381 | Cite as

Spatial and temporal patterns of movement and migration at spawning aggregations of red hind, Epinephelus guttatus, in the U.S. Virgin Islands

  • Richard S. Nemeth
  • Jeremiah Blondeau
  • Steve Herzlieb
  • Elizabeth Kadison
Original Paper


This study compared the spatial and temporal patterns of red hind, Epinephelus guttatus, movement and migration from annual spawning aggregations on St Thomas (STT) and St Croix (STX), United States Virgin Islands. Around STT E. guttatus migrated 6–33 km from a functional spawning migration area of 500 km2 and around STX E. guttatus migrated 5–18 km from an area of 90 km2. Similarities between sites were found in regards to timing of movement, temporal and spatial changes in sex ratios, annual and lunar predictability and were synchronized with environmental cues. E. guttatus spawning aggregations in the Virgin Islands occur between the winter solstice (i.e., after December 20) and about February 20 of any year and show a distinctive peak 20–40 days after the winter solstice. Spawning typically occurred during periods of declining seawater temperature and slacking currents within a temperature range of 26–27.5°C and current speed of 2.5–3.5 cm s−1. Males arrived early to spawning sites and stayed longer than females. These gender-based behavioral patterns are important to E. guttatus reproductive dynamics and must be factored into future studies and the design of fisheries regulations to ensure sustainability of spawning aggregation sites. The predictability of E. guttatus spawning aggregations relative to the winter solstice will be extremely beneficial for defining the temporal and spatial aspects of area closures. The consistency and synchrony of movement and migration will improve both the efficiency of planning research and monitoring programs and directing enforcement activities during critical time periods. Applying this knowledge strategically will maximize the limited resources available for research and enforcement and lead to greater protection of spawning aggregations.


Marine protected areas Serranidae Fish tagging Behavior Fisheries management Caribbean 



The authors gratefully acknowledge grant support from NIH MBRS-SCORE (1 S06 GM066923-01), NOAA/NMFS MARFIN program (NA97FF0348), Puerto Rico Sea Grant Program (R−101-1-02), The Nature Conservancy, VI-EPSCoR program (NSF 0346483) and the Lana Vento Charitable Trust. Technical assistance was provided by A. Quandt, K. Turbé, L. Requa, E. Whiteman, C. Jennings, L. Carr, T. Smith, K. Brown, R. Sjoken and UVI students A. Paul and R. Haberman. Special thanks to the USVI Division of Fish and Wildlife and the Caribbean Fisheries Management Council, and to the cooperation and vessel support of commercial fishers K. Campbell, E. Bryan, T. Daly, G. Martinez and the fish and fishermen who participated in the tag-reward program. Comments from two anonymous reviewers greatly improved this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard S. Nemeth
    • 1
  • Jeremiah Blondeau
    • 1
  • Steve Herzlieb
    • 1
  • Elizabeth Kadison
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Marine and Environmental StudiesUniversity of the Virgin IslandsSt ThomasUS Virgin Islands

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