FSA areas in the Gulf of Mexico

as of December 2017

The map below illustrates all documented fish spawning aggregation (FSA) sites in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. These data were derived from published sources, historical histology collections, and reliable accounts and personal observations from fishermen's logbooks, and data collected by the authors. The location data are deliberately course in order to avoid additional fishing pressure on them.

The FSAs can be divided into three main groups: coastal, mid shelf, and shelf edge. Coastal species including sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus), spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus), red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus), and black drum (Pogonias cromis) form resident, mixed, and transient FSAs at or near the mouths of various coastal embayments and river systems. Mid shelf FSAs are largely those of Goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara) that aggregate around mid-shelf structures such as radio towers and shipwrecks. Shelf edge FSAs are generally used by snapper-grouper complex species including Cubera snapper, (Lutjanus cyanopterus), mutton snapper (L. analis), black grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci) in southwestern Florida Keys area and gag Mycteroperca microlepis and scamp M. phenax along the west Florida Shelf.

Only three of the 23 FSA sites in the Gulf of Mexico have any type of spatial protection. Two are within fully protected areas, (Madison Swanson Marine Protected Area and the Tortugas South Ecological Reserve, a third is somewhat protected through anchoring prohibitions in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. The rest are unprotected.

The paucity of documented sites is probably more a reflection of the effort spent looking (low) rather than the actual number of sites.

Suggested Citation
Heyman, W., S. Kobara, B. Erisman, C. Biggs, N. Farmer, S. Lowerre-Barbieri, M. Karnauskas, and J. Brenner. (2017). Cooperative monitoring program for spawning aggregations in the Gulf of Mexico: Fish Spawning Aggregation Map. Version 2017.12. Available from GCOOS Web site: http://geo.gcoos.org/restore