Two species of plectropomid grouper (Plectropomus areolatus and P. pessuliferus) are found in the Red Sea. In Saudi Arabia these are the most valuable fishes by weight, averaging wholesale prices around US $$$15 per kilogram (personal observation). Over the past two decades, the number of fishing vessels in the Saudi Arabian Red Sea has tripled. Despite this increase in fishing effort Saudi Arabia has not implemented any marine resource management for Red Sea fisheries. Little biological data are currently available to inform managers. The research presented here addresses knowledge gaps on the growth pattern, longevity and sexual ontogeny of Plectropomus spp. in the Red Sea. Collections of each species were established by purchasing landed individuals from fishermen and fish markets distributed evenly between three latitudinal regions around the country. The total length of each fish was measured to the nearest millimeter. Age was estimated by enumerating annual bands visualized in transverse sections of sagittal otoliths. Sexual stage was determined via histological examination of gonadal tissue. Plots of total length versus age were fitted with reparameterized von Bertalanffy growth functions constrained to a size-at-settlement estimate of 20 mm. P. pessuliferus achieved a larger size (maximum 960 mm) and an older age (maximum 19 years) than P. areolatus (maximum size 570 mm, maximum age 9 years). While no regional patterns were found for P. pesuliferus, likelihood ratio tests revealed regional differences in growth pattern for P. areolatus, finding an increasing mean age, increasing mean length, and decreasing growth rate with decreasing latitude. In addition, males of P. areolatus were more abundant in the Southern region. These findings contradict existing theories about the effects of latitudinal temperature gradients on life history. It is hypothesized that the broader continental shelf in the Southern region may be providing a haven for these species in the form of reduced fishing pressure, increased habitat, and increased abundance of prey organisms due to greater regional productivity. Given all of this information, it is recommended that a comprehensive fisheries management regime be implemented, starting with an immediate return to previously-used spawning season closures and working towards spatial closures and size limits.
|Date of Award
- Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
|Michael Berumen (Supervisor)