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Protecting Fish Spawning Sites

NSF Award:

VI-EPSCoR: RII: Building Research Strength in the US Virgin Islands  (University of The Virgin Islands)

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Fish breeding occurs in many ways. Over 120 species of tropical fish like to form reef fish spawning aggregations (FSA). At specific places and times, large numbers of each species gather to reproduce. To learn more about FSA patterns, NSF-funded researchers are tracking several types of grouper in the Caribbean and Indo-Pacific Oceans.

Worldwide, nearly half of all known aggregations are in decline or have disappeared. Eliminating an FSA may severely deplete the local population and create economic hardships for local fishing communities. FSA studies will help management agencies and local fishing communities make informed decisions on how best to sustain global fisheries, while maintaining the livelihoods of fishermen.

The primary goal of the NSF research is to determine the appropriate boundaries to protect spawning aggregations of several commercially important groupers. To achieve this objective, the study uses an overlapping array of acoustic receivers to track the movements of grouper that have been tagged with acoustic transmitters, across tens of kilometers of reef area during the spawning season. This will help UVI researchers and their collaborators identify similarities and differences in movement patterns within (male vs. female) and between several species of groupers in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Preliminary data suggests strong similarities between Indo-Pacific and Caribbean populations based on habitat structure and life history traits.


  • scientists measure fish
Researchers measure one of the target species from the Caribbean.
Richard Nemeth

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