Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Marine Biology and Fisheries (Marine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Jerald S. Ault

Second Committee Member

Donald B. Olson

Third Committee Member

John W. McManus

Fourth Committee Member

Steven G. Smith

Fifth Committee Member

Nelson M. Ehrhardt

Sixth Committee Member

James A. Bohnsack


Movement patterns and space use by mature fishes are critical in determining the effectiveness of marine reserves in conserving spawning stock biomass and/or providing biomass to adjacent fisheries through 'spillover'. Home range sizes, activity patterns, site fidelity and habitat preferences were determined for acoustically-tagged snappers and groupers using a rigorously-calibrated array of omnidirectional hydroacoustic receivers deployed in the diverse coral reef environments of a no-take marine reserve (NTMR) network in the Dry Tortugas, Florida. An individual-based localizing tendency model of reef fish movement was parameterized from fine-scale acoustic telemetry data and integrated into a Spatial Management Performance Assessment (SMPA) simulation model for reef fish populations developed to quantitatively evaluate performance of no-take marine reserves in the Dry Tortugas, Florida. Spatially-explicit SMPA models were parameterized for three overfished stocks in the lucrative snapper-grouper fishery: red grouper (Epinephelus morio), black grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci), and mutton snapper (Lutjanus analis). SMPA models were used to evaluate the impacts of a variety of life histories, movement strategies and speeds, and management regulations upon long-term stock sustainability, as measured by annual changes in spawning potential ratio (SPR), and long-term stock productivity, as measured by annual changes in fisheries yield-in-weight per recruit (Yw/R). Under assumptions of constant regional fishing pressure, constant recruitment, and 'realistic' fish movement, SMPA simulation runs from initial conditions in 2000 suggested that by 2014, the Tortugas NTMR network should function to restore red grouper populations to 30% SPR, a Federal management benchmark for sustainability. Mutton snapper were the most mobile of the species investigated; if mutton snapper movements are ignored, their population is predicted to attain 30% SPR by 2014, but given 'realistic' mobility, they may not attain this target by 2021 without additional protections. Black grouper are currently fished at over 9 times sustainable levels. SMPA simulations suggest coupling an increase in minimum size at capture of 20 - 25 cm with NTMR implementation would result in substantial short term losses in yield, but would restore both black grouper and mutton snapper populations to 30% SPR by 2021 and lead to increased long-term yields. Although marine reserve sites are often chosen opportunistically, these findings strongly suggest that reserve designs (e.g. proper sizes and configurations) must take into account the scales and patterns of movement exhibited by the exploited stocks they are intended to protect. These modeling efforts also suggested reserves are not a panacea; in order to promote sustainability for severely depleted stocks, they must be accompanied by an overall reduction in fishing capacity. Although important questions remain concerning the movements of reef fish in response to habitat and density dependent processes, our analyses of realistic reef fish behaviors suggest that the NTMRs of the Dry Tortugas promote substantial gains in SPR, promoting long-term stock sustainability and enhanced egg production. Increased rates of movement diminish these benefits, but may also mitigate short-term losses in yield associated with NTMR establishment.


Grouper; Marine Reserves; Snapper; Movement; Population Dynamics; Individual Based Model; Marine Protected Area