Marine protected areas (MPAs) are considered key tools for achieving the sustainability of coastal fisheries by allowing habitat and species conservation by means of use regulations and active management. The effects of protection are more visible in slow-growing, high site fidelity and late-maturing species such as the dusky grouper, a flagship species in the Mediterranean Sea.

This study assessed the reproductive behaviour of the dusky grouper at Tabarca Island Marine Protected Area (TIMPA, Spain, W Mediterranean) in order to: a) describe its temporal pattern, b) evaluate the relationships between reproductive behaviour and environmental factors and c) verify the effects of social structure on reproductive activity.

The authors state that all the behaviour patterns previously reported in other studies were observed during this study, besides the final spawn event. This evidences that the effective spawning of dusky grouper has not been carried out, despite verifying the aggregation and reproductive behaviours. As potential causes, the study considers increased turbidity and other overlapping ecological processes.

It is concluded that, even though this work shows negative results, it provides the content to contrast the existing knowledge on dusky grouper reproduction and generates new working hypotheses to improve the efficiency of MPAs and the sustainability of coastal fisheries.

Lozano-Quijada et al. (2022) Environmental drivers and social structure features behind the low reproductive success of dusky groupers Epinephelus marginatus (Lowe, 1834) in a Mediterranean Marine Protected Area. Sustainability 14:6169.