HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

David W. Kerstetter

Second Advisor

Patricia Blackwelder

Third Advisor

Amy C. Hirons

Fourth Advisor

D. Abigail Renegar

Fifth Advisor

Nancy Brown-Peterson


The ability to manage a fish stock relies on an understanding of life history characteristics and basic biology of the species. Numerous age-growth studies are facilitated by the relative ease of ageing fishes through hard-part analyses. Determining reproductive parameters for fish populations is equally important for stock assessments and management, and histological examination of gonads provides the most accurate determination of fecundity and spawning periods. Coastal pelagic fishes are often targeted commercially and recreationally due to their easy access by private vessels. However, there are few studies researching the biology and reproduction of recreational fishes in the waters of Southeastern Florida that would lead to a better understanding for management practices. The objective of this study was to provide baseline reproductive data for two fishes particularly important to Florida fisheries: the coastal pelagic scombrids Blackfin Tuna Thunnus atlanticus and Little Tunny Euthynnus alletteratus. Archived gonad samples from 2010-2014 for these two species were evaluated, and GSI values and histological examination indicated one spawning season for both species. Little Tunny spawn April through August, and Blackfin Tuna spawn May through June. Additionally both species have asynchronous oocyte development, and are batch spawners. Postovulatory follicles were used to estimate spawning frequency; for Blackfin Tuna, mean spawning occurs once every 1.49 days, and for Little Tunny, mean spawning occurs once every 1.47 days. Comparison of otolith age data to these results indicates that Little Tunny mature at a smaller size and younger age than Blackfin Tuna. Size at 50% maturity for male Blackfin Tuna was 435.2 mm TL, for female Blackfin Tuna was 392.3 mm TL, and for male Little Tunny was 347.77 mm TL. Age at 50% majority for male Blackfin Tuna was 0.66 years, and for male Little Tunny was 0.50 years. In addition to providing important baseline data for fisheries management, this study collaborated with previous research to improve accuracy of reproductive age assessments. Finally, reproductive parameter studies of fishes in Florida and the Greater Caribbean area commercial and recreational fisheries provide information important for future ecosystem based management.


This project was funded by the Nova Southeastern University President Faculty Research and Development Grant. Additional support was provided by a scholarship from the Yamaha Contender Miami Billfish Tournament and the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Ronald L. Schmied Scholarship.

  Link to NovaCat