A variety of tools may be used in monitoring spawning aggregations. The most appropriate monitoring protocol for a given location will depend on available resources, expertise, and specific goals of the management program. Both baseline assessments and ongoing, long term monitoring are important parts of a monitoring program.
While long-term monitoring of FSAs is a necessary component of their conservation, it is critical to ensure that observers minimize disturbance to aggregating fish, or interfere with their spawning behavior.
If the aggregation site is well known spatially and temporally, and requires detailed monitoring, there are several methods for underwater visual census surveys.
Underwater Visual Survey Protocol. This protocol was designed for Caribbean species, and can be used for species that aggregate both in the water column (e.g., snappers and jacks), and others that aggregate near the bottom (e.g., groupers).
Draft Manual for Field Practitioners (download pdf, 1,180k)
This protocol is written more specifically for three Pacific grouper species, and provides a good basic guide for monitoring grouper aggregations or other bottom-associated FSA-forming fish.
This SCRFA manual provides general information on FSAs, as well as details on monitoring protocols.
Heyman et al. 2002 is useful for the following:
If the aggregation is being fished, see these pages for population structure and catch rate:
- Catch per unit effort (p. 19-20)
If managers are trying to determine site fidelity, sexual patterns, sex-specific arrival times, and potential distances traveled to and from aggregations, see these pages for useful basic information:
- Fish tagging and recapture (p. 21-24)
- Tissue collection and evaluation (p. 25-26)
The table in the References and Protocols section can help managers match appropriate monitoring protocols with information needs.