Reproductive biology of squaretail coralgrouper Plectropomus areolatus using age-based techniques

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Abstract

The squaretail coralgrouper Plectropomus areolatus was identified as a fast-growing, early maturing and relatively short-lived aggregation-spawning epinephelid. Examinations of sectioned otoliths found females and males first maturing at 2 and 3 years, respectively, suggesting protogynous hermaphroditism; however, no transitionals were observed in samples. Age distribution for the two sexes was similar and both were represented in the oldest age class; however, significant sex-specific differences in size-at-age were identified. Both sexes fully recruit into the fishery at age 4 years and reach 90% of asymptotic length by age 3 years. Underwater visual assessments, combined with the gonado-somatic indices, revealed a 5 month reproductive season, with interannual variability observed in the month of highest density within the spawning aggregation. Catch restrictions on adults during spawning times and at reproductive sites, combined with gear-based management and enhanced enforcement, are recommended to maintain spawning stocks. Based on the available evidence, the sexual pattern for this species is unresolved.

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