Population genetics of Cobia (Rachycentron canadum): implications for fishery management along the coast of the southeastern United States


Darden, Tanya L., Matthew J. Walker, Karl Brenkert, Justin R. Yost, and Michael R. Denson
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Cobia (Rachycentron canadum) is a pelagic, migratory species with a transoceanic distribution in tropical and subtropical waters. Recreational fishing pressure on Cobia in the United States has increased substantially during the last decade, especially in areas of its annual inshore aggregations, making this species potentially susceptible to overfishing. Although Cobia along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the southeastern United States are currently managed as a single fishery, the genetic composition of Cobias in these areas is unclear. On the basis of a robust microsatellite data set from collections along the U.S. Atlantic coast (2008–09), offshore groups were genetically homogenous. However, the 2 sampled inshore aggregations (South Carolina and Virginia) were genetically distinct from each other, as well as from the offshore group. The recapture of stocked fish within their release estuary 2 years after release indicates that some degree of estuarine fidelity occurs within these inshore aggregations and supports the detection of their unique genetic structure at the population level. These results complement the observed high site fidelity of Cobias in South Carolina and support a recent study that confirms that Cobia spawn in the inshore aggregations. Our increased understanding of Cobia life history will be beneficial for determining the appropriate scale of fishery management for Cobia.