Image credit: Ross Robertson - Contact
Habitat and Distribution
This species occurs in the western Atlantic from Nova Scotia to southern Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico. Juveniles are found inshore, often associated with mangroves, whereas adults are found from inshore mangrove areas to offshore coral and rocky reefs.
Spawning season in the Gulf of Mexico
The spawning season for this species is not well documented for the Gulf of Mexico; however, it is reported to spawn in June and July in Florida and from June through September in Cuba. Spawning adults have been collected in the northwestern Gulf in July and August (Heyman, unpublished).
Cubera snapper migrate long distances (of several hundred kms) to form massive transient spawning aggregations of 100 to tens of thousands of fish that are highly predictable in time and space. Aggregations begin to form the week before the full moon, with spawning typically occurring 4 to 8 days after the full moon. Spawning occurs in subgroups of 8 to 20 or more individuals, from the surface to 20 m in depth, often commencing 30 minutes before sunset and ceasing within minutes after sunset. Cubera Snapper are broadcast spawners with external fertilization.
Fishing Patterns in Relation to Spawning
Commercial landings increase in May and peak in August, which is a peak spawning month. Average monthly landings are greater during spawning months than non-spawning months. Recreational landings follow the same pattern with a peak in July and August, but the average monthlty landings are highly variable between spawning and non-spawning months.
Management of Spawning Aggregations
There is no commercial catch limit for Cubera Snapper in federal waters. Net and spearing gear are prohibited in federal waters for the commercial fishery. The recreational fishery in federal waters is managed by a catch limit of 10 that must fit within a total catch limit of 10 similar snapper. Recreational catch limits mirror the federal catch limit, if they are present at all. There are no commercial catch limits in any gulf states except for Florida, where the daily limit is 2 per person or per boat. There are no commercial or recreational seasonal closures for the fishery. Madison Swanson, Steamboat Lumps and the Edges are closed year round. The minimum size is 12" TL for commercial and recreational.