Professors John Hoenig (VIMS Fisheries Dept.) and Jeff Shields (VIMS Aquatic Health Sciences Dept.) recently received a NOAA MARFIN award to provide basic biological information on the maturity of important reef fishes in the US Virgin Islands and model the implications of the current harvesting regime for sustainable fishery management.
Title of the project: Assessment of maturity in commercially and recreationally important reef fishes from the U.S. Virgin Islands
Abstract. This project will provide basic biological information on the maturity of important reef fishes in the US Virgin Islands. It will also model the implications of the current harvesting regime for sustainable fishery management. The project fits directly into MARFIN Priority 2 - Reef fish and other fishery resources associated with reef environments, for research on (a) basic biological data for commercially and recreationally important reef species such as age, length, sex composition, particularly on (1) research on age, growth and reproduction of reef fish for (a) age, growth, sex, fecundity, spawning frequency for Caribbean species scheduled for stock assessment. It also fits within the NOAA's Strategic Plan for sustaining healthy fisheries. This project will obtain dockside and market samples of the commercial catch of 13 species of reef fishes in the US Virgin Islands to obtain length and weight frequency information and biological samples (gonads, otoliths) for determination of age, sex and maturity. Maturity will be determined using morphometric and histological assessment. Samples will be collected at least three times in year 1 and as needed in year 2. The information will be used to estimate the sex ratio and the maturity of the commercial catch in the USVI. Seasonal aspects of reproduction will also be determined by enlisting fishers in a notebook program for recording observations of reproductive activity; this information will be verified by catch sampling. The project will be integrated with complementary projects to provide otoliths for aging the catch, obtain additional specimens of gonads for expanding the size range examined outside that observed in the commercial fishery, and estimate the maturity of the recreational catch for management of the species.