TitleImportance of the Straits of Florida spawning ground to Atlantic sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus) and blue marlin (Makaira nigricans)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsRichardson, DE, Cowen, RK, Prince, ED, Sponaugle, S
JournalFisheries Oceanography
Type of ArticleJournal Article

Much of the uncertainty in managing highly migratory pelagic species results from the scarcity of fisheries-independent data relevant to determining long-term trends in abundance, migratory movements, and the relative importance of different spawning grounds. To address these issues, we used an ichthyoplankton-based method to quantify the overall level of spawning of sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus) and blue marlin (Makaira nigricans) in the Straits of Florida (SF). We estimated that during the 2 years (2003-2004) of the study, 4.60 x 1011 sailfish eggs and 4.49 x 1011 blue marlin eggs were produced on an annual basis in this region. These egg production values, when combined with estimates of annual fecundity for each species and the most recent stock assessment estimate of total biomass, indicate that about 2.1% of Western Atlantic sailfish spawning and 1.6% of Atlantic-wide blue marlin spawning occurs in the SF. Additionally, pop-up satellite tags deployed on sailfish at the start of the spawning season revealed their short residency times in the SF, suggesting that a large (approximate to 13%) transient portion of the sailfish population is responsible for the SF egg production. Overall, this study provides a critically needed fisheries-independent method of quantifying spatial and temporal trends in the abundance of highly migratory species. The application of this methodology in the SF indicated that above-average levels of sailfish and blue marlin spawning occur in this area and, possibly more importantly, that the SF is a migratory bottleneck for these species.

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