Biology and assessment of the painted sweetlips (Diagramma pictum (Thunberg, 1792)) and the spangled emperor (Lethrinus nebulosus (Forsskal, 1775)) in the southern Arabian Gulf


Grandcourt, Edwin M., Thabit Z. Al Abdessalaam, Ahmed T. Al Shamsi, and Franklin Francis
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The population biology and status of the painted sweeplips (Diagramma pictum) and spangled emperor (Lethrinus nebulosus) in the southern Arabian Gulf were established by using a combination of size-frequency, biological, and sizeat-age data. Transverse sections of sagittal otoliths were characterized by alternating translucent and opaque bands that were validated as annuli. Comparisons of growth characteristics showed that there were no significant differences (P>0.05) between sexes. There were well defined peaks in the reproductive cycle, spawning occurred from April to May for both species, and the mean size at which females attained sexual maturity was 31.8 cm fork length (LF) for D. pictum and 27.6 cm (LF) for L. nebulosus. The mean sizes at first capture (21.1 cm LF for D. pictum and 26.4 cm LF for L. nebulosus) were smaller than the sizes for both at first sexual maturity and those at which yield per recruit would be maximized. The range of fishing-induced mortality rates for D. pictum (0.37−0.62/yr) was substantially greater than the target (Fopt=0.07/yr) and limit (Flimit=0.09/yr) estimates. The range of fishing-induced mortality rates for L. nebulosus (0.15/yr to 0.57/yr) was also in excess of biological reference points (Fopt=0.10/yr and Flimit=0.13/yr). In addition to growth overfishing, the stocks were considered to be recruitment overfished because the biomass per recruit was less than 20% of the unexploited levels for both species. The results of the study are important to fisheries management authorities in the region because they indicate that both a reduction in fishing effort and mesh-size regulations are required for the demersal trap fishery.