Dispersal of grouper larvae drives local resource sharing in a coral reef fishery

In many tropical nations, fisheries management requires a community-based approach because small customary marine tenure areas define the spatial scale of management [1]. However, the fate of larvae originating from a community's tenure is unknown, and thus the degree to which a community can expect their management actions to replenish the fisheries within their tenure is unclear [2, 3]. Furthermore, whether and how much larval dispersal links tenure areas can provide a strong basis for cooperative management [4, 5]. Using genetic parentage analysis, we measured larval dispersal from a single, managed spawning aggregation of squaretail coral grouper (Plectropomus areolatus) and determined its contribution to fisheries replenishment within five community tenure areas up to 33 km from the aggregation at Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. Within the community tenure area containing the aggregation, 17%-25% of juveniles were produced by the aggregation. In four adjacent tenure areas, 6%-17% of juveniles were from the aggregation. Larval dispersal kernels predict that 50% of larvae settled within 14 km of the aggregation. These results strongly suggest that both local and cooperative management actions can provide fisheries benefits to communities over small spatial scales. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

Almany, G. R., Hamilton, R. J., Bode, M., Matawai, M., Potuku, T., Saenz-Agudelo, P., … Jones, G. P. (2013). Dispersal of Grouper Larvae Drives Local Resource Sharing in a Coral Reef Fishery. Current Biology, 23(7), 626–630. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2013.03.006

We thank the communities of Timonai, Tawi, Locha, Pere, and Mbunai for their assistance and permission to work on their reefs; C. Costello for field assistance; N. Tolou and S. Baksay for genetic analysis; D.C. Lou for otolith analysis; R.H. Kuiter and J.E. Randall for photographs; and S.R. Connolly, A. Green, T.P. Hughes, K. McLeod, M.S. Webster, and R. Weeks for comments on drafts. Funding was provided by the Australian Research Council (ARC), ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, The Nature Conservancy's Rodney Johnson/Katherine Ordway Stewardship Endowment, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and The David and Lucille Packard Foundation. This work was conducted in accordance with James Cook University's ethics guidelines for research involving animal subjects and human participation.

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