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- Geographic variation in density, demography, and life history traits of a harvested temperate sex-changing reef fish
- Geographic variation in ecological and environmental factors may lead to intraspecific differences among populations. For the California sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher), an important predator in kelp forests and a target of commercial and recreational fisheries, we evaluated the degree to which different populations exhibited variation in density, demography, and life history traits. We assessed biogeographic patterns of abundance through underwater visual census at 39 sites spanning a major portion of the species range (southern California, USA, to Baja California, Mexico) and made collections from seven focal sites to investigate geographic differences in demography and life histories. California sheephead densities were significantly greater in the southern part of their range and at offshore islands than along the mainland coast. At the focal sites, we found significant spatial variation in density, fecundity, size structure, growth rates, annual survivorship, and the timing of maturation and sex change. Density- and temperature-dependent effects helped to explain the intraspecific differences in these parameters. Studies such as this one will allow for demographic plasticity to be incorporated into future stock assessments. Management of temperate reef fishes may best be achieved on smaller spatial scales as we increase our understanding of geographic variation among populations.
- Caselle, Hamilton, Schroeder, Love, Standish, Rosales-Casián, Sosa-Nishizaki
- Size-selective harvesting alters life histories of a temperate sex-changing fish,
- , , , Selective mortality, whether caused naturally by predation or through the influence of harvest practices, initiates changes within populations when individuals possessing certain heritable traits have increased fitness. Theory predicts that increased mortality rates will select for changes in a number of different life history characteristics. For example, fishing often targets larger individuals and has been shown repeatedly to alter population size structure and growth rates, and the timing of maturation. For sex-changing species, selective fishing practices can affect additional traits such as the mature population sex ratio and the timing of sexual transformation. Using historical comparisons, we examined the effects of exploitation on life history characteristics of California sheephead, Semicossyphus pulcher, a temperate protogynous (female–male sex changer) labrid that inhabits nearshore rocky environments from central California, USA, to southern Baja California, Mexico. Recreational fishing intensified and an unregulated commercial live-fish fishery developed rapidly in southern California between the historical and current studies. Collections of S. pulcher from three locations (Bahı´a Tortugas, Catalina Island, and San Nicolas Island) in 1998 were compared with data collected 20–30 years previously to ascertain fishery-induced changes in life history traits. At Bahı´a Tortugas, where fishing by the artisanal community remained light and annual survivorship stayed high, we observed no changes in size structure or shifts in the timing of maturation or the timing of sex change. In contrast, where recreational (Catalina) and commercial (San Nicolas) fishing intensified and annual survivorship correspondingly declined, males and females shifted significantly to smaller body sizes, females matured earlier and changed sex into males at both smaller sizes and younger ages and appeared to have a reduced maximum lifespan. Mature sex ratios (female : male) increased at San Nicolas, despite a twofold reduction in the mean time spent as a mature female. Proper fisheries management requires measures to prevent sex ratio skew, sperm limitation, and reproductive failure because populations of sequential hermaphrodites are more sensitive to size-selective harvest than separate-sex species. This is especially true for S. pulcher, where different segments of the fishery (commercial vs. recreational) selectively target distinct sizes and therefore sexes in different locations., ,
- Hamilton, Caselle, Standish, Schroeder, Love, Rosales-Casian, Sosa-Nishizaki