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Selectivity matters: Rules of thumb for management of plate‐sized, sex‐changing fish in the live reef food fish trade

Kindsvater, Holly K, Reynolds, John D, Sadovy de Mitcheson, Yvonne, Mangel, Marc
Fish and fisheries 2017 v.18 no.5 pp. 821-836
Cheilinus undulatus, Epinephelus fuscoguttatus, age structure, biomass, egg production, females, fish, fisheries, food animals, growers, hermaphroditism, life history, males, markets, mating systems, models, mortality, plasticity, population dynamics, spawning
Effective management of fisheries depends on the selectivity of different fishing methods, control of fishing effort and the life history and mating system of the target species. For sex‐changing species, it is unclear how the truncation of age‐structure or selection of specific size or age classes (by fishing for specific markets) affects population dynamics. We specifically address the consequences of plate‐sized selectivity, whereby submature, “plate‐sized” fish are preferred in the live reef food fish trade. We use an age‐structured model to investigate the decline and recovery of populations fished with three different selectivity scenarios (asymptotic, dome‐shaped and plate‐sized) applied to two sexual systems (female‐first hermaphroditism and gonochorism). We parameterized our model with life‐history data from Brown‐marbled grouper (Epinephelus fuscoguttatus) and Napoleon fish (Cheilinus undulatus). “Plate‐sized” selectivity had the greatest negative effect on population trajectories, assuming accumulated fishing effort across ages was equal, while the relative effect of fishing on biomass was greatest with low natural mortality. Fishing such sex‐changing species before maturation decreased egg production (and the spawning potential ratio) in two ways: average individual size decreased and, assuming plasticity, females became males at a smaller size. Somatic growth rate affected biomass if selectivity was based on size at age because in slow growers, a smaller proportion of total biomass was vulnerable to fishing. We recommend fisheries avoid taking individuals near their maturation age, regardless of mating system, unless catch is tightly controlled. We also discuss the implications of fishing post‐settlement individuals on population dynamics and offer practical management recommendations.