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Spatial Distribution and Conservation of Speckled Hind and Warsaw Grouper in the Atlantic Ocean off the Southeastern U.S.

November 22, 2013

PLOS ONE, 19 November 2013

By Nicholas A. Farmer and Mandy Karnauskas

“There is broad interest in the development of efficient marine protected areas (MPAs) to reduce bycatch and end overfishing of speckled hind (Epinephelus drummondhayi) and warsaw grouper (Hyporthodus nigritus) in the Atlantic Ocean off the southeastern U.S. We assimilated decades of data from many fishery-dependent, fishery-independent, and anecdotal sources to describe the spatial distribution of these data limited stocks. A spatial classification model was developed to categorize depth-grids based on the distribution of speckled hind and warsaw grouper point observations and identified benthic habitats. Logistic regression analysis was used to develop a quantitative model to predict the spatial distribution of speckled hind and warsaw grouper as a function of depth, latitude, and habitat.

Point and spawning observations.

Point and spawning observations.

“Models, controlling for sampling gear effects, were selected based on AIC and 10-fold cross validation. The best-fitting model for warsaw grouper included latitude and depth to explain 10.8% of the variability in probability of detection, with a false prediction rate of 28–33%. The best-fitting model for speckled hind, per cross-validation, included latitude and depth to explain 36.8% of the variability in probability of detection, with a false prediction rate of 25–27%. The best-fitting speckled hind model, per AIC, also included habitat, but had false prediction rates up to 36%. Speckled hind and warsaw grouper habitats followed a shelf-edge hardbottom ridge from North Carolina to southeast Florida, with speckled hind more common to the north and warsaw grouper more common to the south. The proportion of habitat classifications and model-estimated stock contained within established and proposed MPAs was computed. Existing MPAs covered 10% of probable shelf-edge habitats for speckled hind and warsaw grouper, protecting 3–8% of speckled hind and 8% of warsaw grouper stocks. Proposed MPAs could add 24% more probable shelf-edge habitat, and protect an additional 14–29% of speckled hind and 20% of warsaw grouper stocks.”

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