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Tropic news. Volume 12. Issue 4.

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Title:
Tropic news. Volume 12. Issue 4.
Series Title:
Tropic news
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United States Virgin Islands. Department of Planning and Natural Resources. Division of Fish and Wildlife.
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United States Virgin Islands. Department of Planning and Natural Resources. Division of Fish and Wildlife.
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English

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Caribbean ( LCSH )
Newspapers -- Caribbean ( LCSH )
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serial ( sobekcm )
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North America -- United States Virgin Islands
Caribbean

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University of Florida
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TROPIC NEWS
DEPARTMENT OF PLANNING AND NATURAL RESOURCES
)01 DIVISION OF FISH AND WILDLIFE Volume 12 Number 3


Mutton Snapper: More Than Just a Fish

The mutton snapper (Lutjanus analis) is a
member of the Lutjanidae family of snapper. It is
revered by sport fishermen for its cunning and
strength. Mutton snapper are also pursued by com-
mercial fishermen for their good taste and high market
value. Locally, the mutton snapper is also called a
virgin snapper or "Sama" (Spanish). The mutton
snapper can be very striking in appearance. Coloration
may vary from orangish to reddish yellow or reddish
brown, or from silver gray to olive green on the back
and upper sides. The fins below the lateral line will
have a reddish tint. Larger mutton snapper tend to
develop a high back and take on an overall reddish
color, which causes them to be confused with the red
snapper. Young fish are often olive colored and may
display dark bars. There is a distinct black spot about
the size of the eye on the mid-body line below the rear
dorsal fin. Both the anal and dorsal fins are pointed,
the dorsal fin has. 10 spines and 14 soft rays. The
mutton snapper is the only snapper with a V-shaped
tooth patch in the roof of its mouth rather than an
anchor-shaped one seen in other snappers.
Mutton snapper ordinarily grow to 1- 2 feet in
length and 15 pounds in weight but can reach weights
of 25 to 30 pounds and lengths of over 2.5 feet. The
all-tackle world record is a 28-pound 5-ounce fish
caught in Florida.
Juvenile mutton snapper are found in and
around soft bottomed areas such as seagrass beds.
The adults are generally found over hard bottoms
around rocky areas and coral reefs, as well as in bays
and estuaries. They drift above the bottom at depths
of between 5 and 60 feet feeding on shrimp, fish,
snails, and crabs.. Mutton snapper are known to cruise
the coastline during sea turtle hatching seasons feed-
ing on the hatchlings as they enter the water.
In 1991 Dr. Michael Domeier described how
mutton snapper prefers to spawn in huge groups,
called spawning aggregations. These aggregations
form at very precise locations and times of the year.
The predictability of these spawning aggregations has
made them an easy target for fishermen, who catch
them with rod and reel, handlines, longlines and fish
traps. To protect this vulnerable gathering of fish,


there is an area off of Sandy Point in St. Croix closed
to all fishing during the spawning season, which is
generally from March 1st through June 30th. (Refer
to Department of Planning and Natural Resources -
Recreational and Commercial Fisherman's Informa-
tion Booklet for exact locations of these areas.)
When the fish spawn they release millions of
tiny eggs (less than a millimeter in diameter) and
sperm into the water where they mix, and fertilization
takes place. The fertilized eggs float to the surface
and hatch in about 24 hours. At the time of hatching
the baby snapper, called larvae, are not much more
than a thread of tissue. In fact, they don't even have a
mouth or eyes until about 3 days after hatching.
These tiny snapper larvae drift with the ocean cur-
rents for about three weeks, feeding on tiny plank-
tonic sea life as they grow rapidly. After the 3 week
period the larvae have grown enough to look more
like what we expect a tiny snapper to look like.
Having drifted in the currents the larval snappers will
most likely be a long way from their spawning site.
If they are not in the vicinity of shallow water, they
will not survive. It is at this stage that they look for
shallow grass flats where they swim to the bottom to
continue their life as a juvenile snapper.
Anglers frequently fish for mutton snapper
because they are strong fighters. They can be taken
on light tackle with natural baits or small lures. Mut-
ton snapper are primarily caught by bottom fishing
methods over irregular terrain. Baits and lures may
be fished vertically or slowly trolled near the bottom.
Occasionally they may be taken on flats or lured to
the surface and caught on a fly.


Mutton snapper, Lutjanus analis





Sharks and Shark Attacks
Around the Virgin Islands there are 11 common
sharks, of which only two species have been con-
firmed to have attacked man, the Tiger shark
(Galeocerdo cuvier) and Bull shark (Carcharhinus
leucas). However, almost any large shark, roughly
two meters or longer in total length, is a potential
threat to humans. Tiger and Bull sharks are widely
distributed, reach large sizes, and consume large prey
items such as marine mammals, sea turtles, and fishes
as normal elements of their diets. Other local species
that may be dangerous include: blacktip
(Carcharhinus limbatus), great hammerhead (Sphyrna
mokarran), oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus
longimanus), and reef shark, (Carcharhinus perezi).
In the Virgin Islands we have only 3 attacks on
record and no attacks since July 2, 1992. With only
one exception every attack in the V.I. has been due to
people harassing the shark. Shark attacks in the VI
are virtually unheard of because our water is very
clear, so sharks are less likely to accidentally bite a
person.
The relative risk of a shark attack is very small,
a person in New York City is 900 times more likely to
be bit by a dog and 150 times more likely to be bit by
another person than anyone in the United States being
bitten by a shark. You are also 11,000 times more
likely to be injured by nails, screws and other fasten-
ers, and 7,700 times more likely to be injured by a
ladder than by sharks. Although the risk of being
attacked by a shark is extremely small, the risks can
still be minimized. The chances of having an interac-
tion with a shark can be reduced if one heeds the
following advice:


1) Always stay in groups since sharks are more likely
to attack a solitary individual than a group.
2) Do not wander too far from shore, this tends to
isolate individuals, and distance you from help.
3) Avoid being in the water during darkness or twi-
light hours, when sharks are the most active.
4) Do not enter the water if bleeding from an open
wound, sharks have very advanced olfactory senses.
5) Wearing shiny jewelry is discouraged because it
resembles the sheen of fish scales.
6) Avoid waters with known effluents or sewage and
those being used by sport or commercial fisherman,
especially if there are signs of bait fishes or feeding
activity.
7) Sightings of porpoises do not indicate the absence
of sharks, both porpoises and sharks eat the same
things, fish.
8) Sharks see contrast particularly well, so use extra
caution when waters are murky and avoid uneven
tanning and bright colored clothing
9) Refrain from excess splashing and do not allow
pets in the water because of their erratic movements.
10) Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be
present and evacuate the water if sharks are seen
while there.
11) AND, of course, do not harass a shark if you see
one!
For more information call or visit your local DFW
office. Or you can visit on the internet:
www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Sharks/Sharks.htm

This newsletter was funded b% the US Fish and
Wildlife Sen ice, Sport Fish Restoration Acts.
Donna M. Griffin Editor
William Coles. Chief Environmental Education


GOVERNMENT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
OF THE UNITED STATES

Department of Planning and Natural Resources
Division of Fish and Wildlife
6291 Estate Nazareth 101
St. Thomas, USVI 00802-1104
(340)775-6762 (ST.T.), (340)772-1955 (ST.X.)


BULK RATE
U.S. POSTAGE PAID
CHARLOTTE AMALIE, V,
PERMIT NO. 35


Division of Fish and Wildlife
45 Mars Hill
St. Croix VI 00840


Address Correction Requested


Trees were saved by printing on recycled paper


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Full Text

PAGE 1

Mutton Snapper: More Than Just a Fish The mutton snapper (Lutjanus ana/is) is a member of the Lutjanidae family of snapper. It is revered by sport fishermen for its cunning and strength. Mutton snapper are also pursued by commercial fishermen for their good taste and high market value. Locally, the mutton snapper is also called a virgin snapper or "Sama" (Spanish). The mutton snapper can be very striking in appearance. Coloration may vary from orangish to reddish yellow or reddish brown, or from silver gray to olive green on the back and upper sides. The fins below the lateral line will have a reddish tint. Larger mutton snapper tend to develop a high back and take on an overall reddish color, which causes them to be confused with the red snapper. Young fish are often olive colored and may display dark bars. There is a distinct black spot about the size of the eye on the mid-body line below the rear dorsal fin. Both the anal and dorsal fins are pointed, the dorsal fin has. 10 spines and 14 soft rays. The mutton snapper is the only snapper with a V -shaped tooth patch in the roof of its mouth rather than an anchor-shaped one seen in other snappers. Mutton snapper ordinarily grow to 12 feet in length and 15 pounds in weight but can reach weights of 25 to 30 pounds and lengths of over 2.5 feet. The all-tackle world record is a 28-pound 5-ounce fish caught in Florida. Juvenile mutton snapper are found in and around soft bottomed areas such as seagrass beds. The adults are generally found over hard bottoms around rocky areas and coral reefs, as well as in bays and estuaries. They drift above the bottom at depths of between 5 and 60 feet feeding on shrimp, fish, snails, and crabs.. Mutton snapper are known to cruise the coastline during sea turtle hatching seasons feeding on the hatchlings as they enter the water. In 1991 Dr. Michael Domeier described how mutton snapper prefers to spawn in huge groups, called spawning aggregations. These aggregations form at very precise locations and times of the year. The predictability of these spawning aggregations has made them an easy target for fishermen, who catch them with rod and reel, handlines, longlines and fish traps. To protect this vulnerable gathering of fish, there is an area off of Sandy Point in St. Croix closed to all fishing during the spawning season, which is generally from March 1 st through June 30th. (Refer to Department of Planning and Natural Resources Recreational and Commercial Fisherman's Information Booklet for exact locations of these areas.) When the fish spawn they release millions of tiny eggs (less than a millimeter in diameter) and sperm into the water where they mix, and fertilization takes place. The fertilized eggs float to the surface and hatch in about 24 hours. At the time of hatching the baby snapper, called larvae, are not much more than a thread of tissue. In fact, they don't even have a mouth or eyes until about 3 days after hatching. These tiny snapper larvae drift with the ocean currents for about three weeks, feeding on tiny planktonic sea life as they grow rapidly. After the 3 week period the larvae have grown enough to look more like what we expect a tiny snapper to look like. Having drifted in the currents the larval snappers will most likely be a long way from their spawning site. If they are not in the vicinity of shallow water, they will not survive. It is at this stage that they look for shallow grass flats where they swim to the bottom to continue their life as a juvenile snapper. Anglers frequently fish for mutton snapper because they are strong fighters. They can be taken on light tackle with natural baits or small lures. Mutton snapper are primarily caught by bottom fishing methods over irregular terrain. Baits and lures may be fished vertically or slowly trolled near the bottom. Occasionally they may be taken on flats or lured to the surface and caught on a fly. DEPARTMENT OF PLANNING AND NATURAL RESOURCES Third Quarter 2001 DIVISION OF FISH AND WILDLIFE Volume 12 Number 3

PAGE 2

Sharks and Shark Attacks Around the, Virgin Islands there are 11 common sharks, of which only two species have been confirmed to have attacked man, the Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) and Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas). However, almost any large shark, roughly two meters or longer in total length, is a potential threat to humans. Tiger and Bull sharks are widely distributed, reach large sizes, and consume large prey items such as marine mammals, sea turtles, and fishes as normal elements of their diets. Other local species that may be dangerous include: blacktip (Carcharhinus limbatus), great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran), oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus), and reef shark, (Carcharhinus perezi). In the Virgin I~l~ds we have only 3 attacks on record and no att~cks since July 2, 1992. With only one exception every attack in the V.I. has been due to people harassing the shark. Shark attacks in the VI are virtually unheard of because our water is very clear, so sharks are less likely to accidentally bite a person. The relative risk of a shark attack is very small, a person in New York City is 900 times more likely to be bit by a dog and 150 times more likely to be bit by another person than anyone in the United States being bitten by a shark. You are also 11 ,000 times more likely to be injured by nails, screws and other fasteners, and 7,700 times more likely to be injured by a ladder than by sharks. Although the risk of being attacked by a shark is extremely small, the risks can still be minimize~. The chances of having an interaction with a shark can be reduced if one heeds the following advice: 1) Always stay in groups since sharks are more likely to attack a solitary individual than a group. 2) Do not wander too far from shore, this tends to isolate individuals, and distance you from help. 3) Avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight hours, when sharks are the most active. 4) Do not enter the water if bleeding from an open wound, sharks have very advanced olfactory senses. 5) Wearing shiny jewelry is discouraged because it resembles the sheen of fish scales. 6) Avoid waters with known effluents or sewage and those being used by sport or commercial fisherman, especially if there are signs of bait fishes or feeding activity . 7) Sightings of porpoises do not indicate the absence of sharks, both porpoises and sharks eat the same things, fish. 8) Sharks see contrast particularly well, so use extra caution when waters are murky and avoid uneven tanning and bright colored clothing 9) Refrain from excess splashing and do not allow pets in the water because of their erratic movements. 10) Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present and evacuate the water if sharks are seen while there. 11) AND, of course, do not harass a shark if you see one! For more information call or visit your local DFW office. Or you can visit on the internet: www .flmnh. ufl.edu/fish/Sharks/Sharks.htm This newsletter was funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Sport Fish Restoration Acts. Donna M. Griffin Editor William Coles, Chief Environmental Education BULK RATE U.S. POSTAGE PAID CHARLOTTE AMALIE, V, PERMIT NO. 35 GOVERNMENT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS OF THE UNITED STATES ****** Department of Planning and Natural Resources Division ofFish and Wildlife 6291 Estate Nazareth 101 St. Thomas, USVI 00802-1104 (340)775-6762 (ST.T.), (340)772-1955 (ST.X.) Division of Fish and Wildlife 45 Mars Hill St. Croix VI 00840 Address Correction Requested Trees were saved by printing on recycled paper