First report of massive aggregations of the Patagonian ‘grouper’

January 08, 2021

This paper describes massive spawning aggregations and seasonal changes in the large‐scale distribution of the Patagonian grouper Acanthistius patachonicus in the Southwest Atlantic based on three sources of information: (a) data from bottom trawl research surveys covering the distributional range of the species within the Argentine continental shelf; (b) folk ecological knowledge gathered from experienced captains of the Argentine industrial trawl fisheries; and (c) sampling of an artisanal trap fishery targeting the Patagonian grouper in a specific location off the coast of Buenos Aires Province. The trawl surveys showed a general pattern of aggregation of Patagonian grouper towards the coast during the reproductive period (September–December). Captains described massive aggregations of the species at specific near‐shore locations, where trawl catches of up to 15 t in a single haul were registered during the reproductive season. At a local scale, the artisanal trap fishery described operates exclusively during the reproductive period, targeting near‐shore aggregations with a high proportion of individuals releasing gametes onboard. These three sources of information provide evidence of the existence of massive transient spawning aggregations of Patagonian grouper in the Argentine shelf. This is the first report of a reef fish spawning aggregation in the southern region of the Southwest Atlantic. Anecdotal information gathered in this study points to the depletion of many of the aggregations targeted during the 1980s and 1990s by the industrial fleet. At the same time, the spawning aggregation site off Buenos Aires Province has been productive for the last 34 years, being exploited exclusively by traps. The Patagonian grouper is classified as Data Deficient by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which highlights the need for further research to determine its stock status. Mapping its current spawning aggregations should be a priority to inform the design of a targeted monitoring program and management plan for this species.

Irigoyen, A, Riestra, C, Lopez, S, Parma, AM. Patagonian grouper Acanthistius patachonicus (Jenyns, 1840) forms massive spawning aggregations in the Southwest Atlantic. J Fish Biol. 2020; 1– 10.