Occurrence of Juvenile Nassau Grouper, Epinephelus striatus (Teleostei: Serranidae), off Mona Island, Puerto Rico: Considerations of Recruitment Potential
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In the wider Caribbean, the Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) is considered a commercially important fish. However, its former abundance has declined precipitously in many areas due to overfishing. In Mona Island, Puerto Rico, its spawning aggregations have apparently disappeared; but while visual surveys were undertaken in shallow back reef habitats of the southern coast of Mona, at least 7 Nassau grouper juveniles were recorded.During 2000 and 2005, early stage juveniles were observed in seagrass dominated habitats within a 100 m radius. Despite the apparent disappearance of spawning aggregations, the presence of early stage juveniles implies that this grouper is reproducing in Mona Island either at unknown aggregation sites or during seasons other than winter (i.e.,the common reproductive season). Alternatively, larvae may derive from either the western coast of Puerto Rico or eastern coast of the Dominican Republic and thereby replenish this species in waters of Mona Island. More research is needed to determine the location of spawning aggregation sites, the extent of its reproductive season, and the potential for grouper larval connectivity among nearby islands.