SPATIAL VARIATION IN GROWTH AND MORTALITY PARAMETERS OF THE MARBLED PARROTFISH, LEPTOSCARUS VAIGIENSIS (QUOY AND GAIMARD, 1824) ON DIFFERENT REEFS ALONG THE KENYAN COAST
Keywords:Fishing pressure, marine protected areas, phenotypic plasticity, resilience
Growth and mortality variations of Leptoscarus vaigiensis (Quoy and Gaimard, 1824) was studied among six reef sites exposed to different fishing pressure in coastal Kenya in order to test the hypothesis of phenotypic plasticity. Monthly fish samples were obtained from marine parks (protected or no-take areas), marine reserves (partially protected areas) and non-protected reefs from May 2011 to April 2013. Measurements for total lengths (cm) and body weights (g) were recorded. Growth (K, L∞) and mortality (Z, M, F) parameters of the species were determined using the ELEFAN I program and compared between sites. Results showed higher asymptotic length (L∞) esƟmate (~ 31 cm) for parrotfish from the reserve site and lowest estimate (26-27 cm) from the marine park site indicating that the potential for growth is influenced by factors other than levels of protection. Fish from park sites had equal but lowest growth rates (K yr-1) of 0.46 compared to 1.73 ± 0.11 and 1.36 ± 0.84 for fish from non-protected and reserve sites, respectively. As expected, total mortality estimates (Z yr-1) were lower for protected areas (1.69-1.96) and higher for reserve (2.87-9.15) and non-protected (4.39-5.30) sites. This study showed divergence of growth parameters of a coral reef fish exposed to different levels of fishing pressure, thereby providing insights into the possibility of utilizing the parameters as indicators of environmental stress.