Ultrasonic imaging was used to determine the spawning population structure and develop a fecundity estimation model for a red hind Epinephelus guttatus spawning aggregation within the Red Hind Bank Marine Conservation District, St Thomas, U.S.V.I. The spawning population showed considerable within-month and between-month variation in population size- and sex-structure. In the spawning season studied, males appeared to arrive at the aggregation site first in December although females represented a large proportion of the catch early in the aggregation periods in January and February. Spawning occurred in January and February, and size frequency distributions suggested that an influx of small females occurred during the second spawning month. An overall sex ratio of 2·9 : 1 (female : male) was recorded for the whole reproductive season. The sex ratio, however, differed between months and days within months. More females per male were recorded in January than in February when the sex ratio was male biased. Fecundity estimates for this species predicted very high potential fecundities (2·4 × 105−2·4 × 106 oocytes). The ultrasound model also illustrated a rapid increase in potential female fecundity with total length. Ultrasonic imaging may prove a valuable tool in population assessment for many species and locations in which invasive fishing methods are clearly undesirable.
US Virgin Islands