Restocking the sea cucumber Holothuria scabra: sizing no-take zones through individual-based movement modelling

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Purcell, SW & Kirby, DS 2006, 'Restocking the sea cucumber Holothuria scabra: sizing no-take zones through individual-based movement modelling', Fisheries Research, vol. 80, no. 1, pp. 53-61.

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The valuable sea cucumber Holothuria scabra, known as ‘sandfish’, has potential for restocking. However, there is little information available to determine the size of the no-take zones (NTZs) needed to protect the released animals so that they can form nucleus breeding populations. To do this, we measured short-term movement paths of released juvenile (1–105 g) and wild adult (130–690 g) sandfish in a seagrass bed in New Caledonia. We then developed an individual-based model (IBM) to predict long-term dispersal of sandfish released as juveniles (1–16 g) at 1 individual m−2 within a 1-ha area, drawing on distributions of speed and directionality and the relationship between speed and animal weight from field data. Movement was non-random at the sampling scale used, since animals tended to turn <90° at each 2-h time step. We examined high- and low-growth scenarios by applying 50% and 25% of the modelled growth rates of sandfish held in earthen ponds (where they are known to grow faster). The dispersal of released sandfish was predicted to be limited in the first 2 years, then markedly faster thereafter. After 10 years, 6–12% of surviving animals were predicted to remain in the original 1-ha release site. To protect surviving sandfish as nucleus breeding populations for 10 years, and accepting 10% spillover, square NTZs would need to be 19–40 ha. The findings are useful for the management of restocking and pre-defining the size of sites for recapture surveys. Our model allows user-specified values for future releases and should be applicable for other sedentary marine invertebrates where basic data on movement and growth are available.

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