Determining a species’ specific growth rate, size and age at maturity, and the rate at which it reproduces tells us a lot about its vulnerability to fishing exploitation. A slow-growing shark species that only produces 4 offspring every other year may not be able to recover from heavy fishing mortality. This is especially important information for threatened species that have been overexploited. Because growth rates and reproductive output vary so widely among species, and often by region, it is extremely important to study the growth and reproductive biology of threatened marine wildlife on a species-specific and regional basis.
Through fisheries-independent and -dependent means, MarAlliance has been determining the growth rates and age at maturity for species such as the Caribbean reef shark, Goliath grouper and several species of rays that are currently listed as data deficient by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Results of our work have been integrated into peer-reviewed papers, management plans and species assessments.