Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Marine Affairs and Policy (Marine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Kenny Broad

Second Committee Member

Claire Paris

Third Committee Member

Dave Letson


Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) is a popular and heavily exploited seafood throughout its range. This species supports the primary fishery in many Caribbean countries, especially in the Bahamas, which reports the highest catches and where spiny lobster serves as the number one food export. P. argus possesses one of the longest pelagic larval durations of any marine species, ranging from 6-12 months. This allows for the possibility of long-range dispersal, which would make it difficult to determine if local adult populations originate from areas close-by or within the same countries/jurisdictions, thus presenting implications for conservation and management of the species. This project seeks to explore the policy implications of lobster larval dispersal in the Bahamas by examining the larval connectivity of locally spawned P. argus in order to determine the mean dispersal kernel and to identify hotspots of settlement within the area. A coupled biophysical model was used to simulate larval transport from scaled egg production of 47 release locations within the Bahamas. The model was initialized bi-weekly from April through May, the highest months of larvae production in the Bahamas, with each model run occurring for a maximum of 180 days. The dispersal kernel for the Bahamas was calculated to be an average of 100-300 km, indicating that the larvae released within its boundaries typically settled there as well. Due to the long pelagic larval duration, larval particles were able to travel extensive distances, averaging trajectories covering distances of 4000 km and greater from the source locations. Yet, those same larval particles still settled in locations within the Bahamas, suggesting local retention, which varies from the common perception that lobster in the Bahamas originate elsewhere. This knowledge can be used to assess and perhaps reevaluate conservation and management strategies related to the Bahamian P. argus fishery, including the implementation of MPAs and/or MPA networks, input and output management controls, and other management tools.


Connectivity; Biophysical Modeling; Dispersal Kernels; Panulirus Argus; MPAs; Caribbean Spiny Lobster