We used acoustic telemetry to quantify permit Trachinotus falcatus habitat use and connectivity in proximity to the Florida Keys, USA, and assessed these patterns relative to current habitat and fisheries management practices. From March 2017 to June 2018, 45 permit tagged within 16 km of the lower Florida Keys were detected at stationary acoustic receivers throughout the south Florida region, the majority of which remained within the Special Permit Zone, where more extensive fisheries harvest regulations are implemented. There was a high level of connectivity between nearshore flats (i.e., <3 m water depth) and the Florida reef tract (FRT; 15–40 m water depth), with 75% of individuals detected in both habitats. These locations probably function primarily as foraging and spawning habitats, respectively. Permit occupancy on the FRT peaked during the months of March–September, with the highest number of individuals occurring there in April and May. Specific sites on the FRT were identified as potentially important spawning locations, as they attracted a high proportion of individuals that exhibited frequent visits with high residency durations. There were also significant positive relationships between seasonal habitat-use metrics on the FRT and an empirical permit gonadosomatic index. Large aggregations of permit at spawning sites on the FRT are potentially vulnerable to the effects of fishing (including predation during catch and release) at a critical point in their life cycle. These data on permit space use and movement, coupled with knowledge of stressors on their ecology, provide insights for implementing science-based strategic management plans.

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Journal of Fish Biology
Department of Biology

Brownscombe, J.W. (Jacob W.), Griffin, L.P. (Lucas P.), Morley, D. (Danielle), Acosta, A. (Alejandro), Hunt, J. (John), Lowerre-Barbieri, S.K. (Susan K.), … Danylchuk, A.J. (Andy J.). (2019). Seasonal occupancy and connectivity amongst nearshore flats and reef habitats by permit Trachinotus falcatus: considerations for fisheries management. Journal of Fish Biology. doi:10.1111/jfb.14227