Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Yuying Zhang

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

William Anderson

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Heather Bracken-Grissom

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Shouraseni Sen Roy

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Joel Trexler

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


fishery, metapopulation, stock assessment, MSE

Date of Defense



The Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) provides many ecological and economic benefits to the Southeast United States, as well as many South American and Caribbean countries. However, limited knowledge on the recruitment dynamics of this valuable species has long been an issue for the fishery management. Panulirus argus has a pelagic larval stage called the phyllosoma. During the larval stage, a phyllosoma can drift with currents from six to nine months. This long pelagic life stage leads to the hypothesis that P. argus stocks in the Caribbean are demographically open. Evidences from biophysical modeling and genetic analysis have supported this hypothesis. However, this new knowledge contradicts the assumption that each stock is isolated from others during the fishery assessment and management procedure. Previous studies have shown that misspecification of the spatial structure among stocks could lead to bias estimation on the stock status (e.g., spawning stock biomass) and reduce the effectiveness of the management. Therefore, understanding the spatial structure among stocks, as well as the impacts of spatial structure on stock assessment and management, are crucial to the

development of a sustainable spiny lobster fishery in the Southeast US and Caribbean Region.

In the present dissertation, stable isotope analysis, genetic markers and bio-physical modeling were applied to monthly recruit samples arriving at the Florida Keys from August 2014 to July 2016. The purpose of these analyses was to investigate the connectivity between the Florida stock and upstream stocks in the Caribbean. Then, a meta-population framework was developed on the basis of this connectivity. This framework was then used to evaluate the impact of spatial structure on stock assessment, as well as the effectiveness of fishery management scenarios.

The results of my studies have revealed, by applying stable isotope analysis, genetic markers and biophysical modeling, high levels of connectivity between the Florida stock and upstream Caribbean stocks. This therefore bolsters the hypothesis that the Florida stock is demographically open. Furthermore, my studies also detected significant bias in results from the stock assessment in which spatial structure was ignored. Finally, the results of management strategies evaluations have suggested that the Florida stock condition could be heavily influenced by the management of other stocks in the Caribbean, and an international cooperation of fisheries management could be highly beneficial for this species.



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Biology Commons


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