Reproductive biology of the mackerel scad Decapterus macarellus from Cabo Verde and the implications for its fishery management
The mackerel scad Decapterus macarellus is of great social and economic importance to Cabo Verde citizens; however, in recent years catches have shown an unexplained decline. The harvest is regulated by way of a minimum legal size and a seasonal closure, with both measures based on the results of reproductive studies that did not consider the microscopic characteristics of the gonads. This study aimed to analyse the gonads microscopically in order to classify the sexual development stage of individuals and to estimate the size at first maturity and the reproductive season. This information was then used to analyse the match between the reproductive parameters and the management measures. The samples comprised 284 females (20–36 cm fork length [FL]) and 85 males (21–35 cm FL). The annual variation in gonadosomatic index and the monthly frequencies of mature phases suggest that the reproductive season occurs from March to October, with two spawning peaks, one in March and
another from July to October. The current seasonal closure (from July to September) covers the main reproductive period. However, the species has a long spawning period and the timing of peaks can vary between years; hence, a reassessment of this management measure is recommended. The sizes at first maturity were estimated at 24.1 cm FL for females, and 26.6 cm FL for males. These values are higher than the minimum legal size (20 cm FL) currently established for management of the species at Cabo Verde; thus, we strongly recommend an increase in the minimum legal size in an attempt to reduce catches of immature individuals.
Keywords: eastern Atlantic, gonad histology, minimum legal size, pelagic fish, seasonal closure, size at first maturity, spawning period