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Correlations in Recruitment Patterns of Atlantic Reef Fishes Off the Southeastern United States Based on Multi-decadal Estimates from Stock Assessments

January 24, 2023

Finding connections in recruitment patterns of Atlantic reef fishes from the Southeast U.S. from stock assessments.


Atlantic reef fishes off the southeastern United States support a multispecies fishery important to both commercial and recreational fleets. Productivity of this reef-fish complex is driven to a large degree by recruitment of new individuals into their respective populations. In this study, we analyzed patterns in time series of annual recruitment of ten Atlantic reef-fish species, primarily snappers and groupers, that have been the subject of separate single-species stock assessments. Our focus was on identifying patterns in autocorrelation of recruitment within species and on uncovering patterns in correlation across species. We found that autocorrelation of recruitment deviations was evident in the majority (9/10) of species with a dominant lag of one year. Pairwise correlations between species were both positive and negative. Principal component analysis revealed two general groups of species: those that exhibited lower-than-expected recruitment in recent years and those that did not exhibit such low recruitment (either near expected or higher-than-expected). These results point toward common drivers of recruitment (e.g., environmental, ecological, exploitation) in this complex of reef-associated fishes, and they are a critical first step for developing hypotheses of underlying mechanisms. Additionally, they have practical importance for stock assessments that forecast recruitment when forming fishery management advice.

Wade, KJ, KW Shertzer, JK Craig, EH Williams. 2023. Correlations in recruitment patterns of Atlantic reef fishes off the southeastern United States based on multi-decadal estimates from stock assessments. Regional Studies in Marine Science 57. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rsma.2022.102736


Last updated by Southeast Fisheries Science Center on 01/26/2023