Define Your Focus
The first step in any conservation program is to answer a few questions about the relative level of threat, and the need for conservation of the spawning aggregation:
- Which FSA-forming reef-associated species are present in the area and, of those, which are important to local communities or regional fisheries?
- Is there any evidence to suggest that spawning aggregations for these species are being over-utilized by fisheries, or endangered by other processes (e.g., habitat destruction), and do they need immediate or near-term protection?
- When do spawning aggregations form?
- Where are the spawning aggregation sites?
- Which species are present and which spawn in the aggregation sites that have been identified?
- What are the likely impacts to the spawning aggregation, the fishes utilizing them, and the fishing community from conservation measures?
Answering these basic questions can assist in developing an information gathering and conservation strategy, and may reduce the amount of time and effort needed to identify and conserve local FSAs. While attention should initially be given to species or FSAs that may be in danger of extirpation, it is important to provide all FSAs with equal protection, since closing one FSA may simply shift effort to another ‘less important, less utilized’ FSA.
Bear in mind that while more abundant sites may be more visually appealing, smaller, less abundant sites may be in greater danger of overfishing and loss, and need more immediate conservation attention. Species that are often the focus of regional conservation attention, e.g., snappers and groupers, may have little importance to local fisheries in your area, and may deserve less immediate attention than other locally important FSA-forming species. Identifying the species likely requiring the most immediate conservation action should be the first focus of any information gathering exercise. For more discussion on this topic refer to the section on Protection Priorities.
When gathering information on spawning aggregations, it is often advisable to use a variety of different sources. The best start is the variety of published (peer-reviewed) and grey (unpublished) literature on spawning aggregations, and the many web-based resources and publications currently available, or listed, such as on the SCRFA website.