Movement dynamics of dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) in the northeastern Caribbean Sea: Evidence of seasonal re-entry into domestic and international fisheries throughout the western central Atlantic
Distinct spatial variation and fisheries exchange routes for dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) were resolved relative to the northeastern Caribbean Sea and U.S. east coast using conventional (n = 742; mean ± SD cm FL: 70.5 ± 15.2 cm FL) and pop-up satellite archival tags (n = 7; 117.6 ± 11.7 cm FL) from 2008 to 2014. All dolphinfish released in the northeastern Caribbean Sea moved westward (274.42° ± 21.06°), but slower in the tropical Atlantic than Caribbean Sea, with a maximum straight-line distance recorded between San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Charleston, South Carolina (1917.49 km); an 180-day geolocation track was obtained connecting the South Atlantic Bight to the northern limits of the Mona Passage. Two recaptures occurred within the Mona Passage from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and St. John, United States Virgin Islands, providing the first evidence that dolphinfish may cross the Greater Antilles island chain between the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea in both directions during their migration. To investigate this further, fish movements were compared to surface drifter tracks (n = 196) in the region. Entry of drifters into the Caribbean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean occurred through the northern Lesser Antilles, the Anegada Passage, and the Mona Passage; both passages were observed to be an entry and exit. Results suggest domestic and international fisheries exchanges occur annually between the United States and Caribbean island nations (Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Kitts, United States Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, The Bahamas, Cuba, Bermuda), with return migration directed towards the Yucatan Channel/Loop Current (south of the Greater Antilles) or Straits of Florida/Gulf Stream (north). Understanding dolphinfish movements and regional connectivity among exclusive economic zones of northern Caribbean islands and the United States is critical for accurate assessments of fishing mortality, spawning biomass and stock health, and given the regional connectivity, management must be consistent between jurisdictions.