Effects of a marine fishery reserve and habitat characteristics in the abundance and demography of the red hind grouper, Epinephelus guttatus
Lopez-Rivera, Maria del Mar
Sabat, Alberto M.
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No-take marine fishery reserves have been established worldwide to reduce the impact of overfishing in marine ecosystems and to restore depleted fishery stocks. In this study we used capture-markrecapture methodology to evaluate the effectiveness of a small no-take marine fishery reserve in enhancing local abundance, size structure, survival and growth of the red hind grouper, Epinephelus guttatus . The benthic and fish communities were also characterized to discern between the effects of reserve protection from those of habitat variability. A total of 342 red hinds were captured at three localities inside and three outside(200 inside, 142 outside), with a recapture rate of 21.9%. All recaptures were made at the site of initial capture. Density of red hind groupers significantly differed among localities; however, no effect of the reserve was evident. The highest red hind grouper densities were found in hard ground habitats irrespective of management (i.e. inside vs. outside no-take marine fishery reserve). Survival and growth rates did not vary significantly among localities or between management treatments. However, red hind groupers inside the reserve were significantly larger than those outside. Significant differences in benthic community structure were found among localities, but not between management treatments. Variation in red hind grouper population parameters among sites did not correlate with benthic community variables, except for relief, that correlated negatively with red hind grouper density. The overriding factor accounting for differences in red hind grouper density among sites appears to be habitat choice, not the protection from fishing conferred by the reserve.