Commercial and recreational environmental enterprises in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), Florida supply nearly 10,000 jobs and produce $1.6 billion dollars a year in revenue. These waters contain iconic species of sportfish, including red drum, snook, and sea trout, as well as their lower trophic level prey such as snapper and mullet. Striped mullet (Mugil cephalus) are both commercially valuable as well as an indicator species for overall ecosystem health. From September to December, mullet in the IRL undergo an annual migration from their inshore foraging habitats to oceanic spawning sites. However, their actual migratory pathways remain unknown. To address this knowledge gap, I utilized passive acoustic telemetry to assess the migration patterns of M. cephalus within the IRL complex, particularly focusing on movement pathways from inshore aggregation sites to oceanic inlets to spawn. Coupling environmental metrics with movement data, I evaluated catalysts for migration as well as travel routes through the estuary. Network analyses identified potential conservation areas of interest and sites needing management intervention. Impoundments around the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge appear to serve as an important refuge area for striped mullet while the Banana and Indian Rivers act as corridors during their inshore migratory movements. The environmental metrics of depth, temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, barometric pressure, and photoperiod were the best predictors for the number of detections and residency time produced by two case studies of striped mullet activity. An emphasis on spatial fisheries management along with vigilant environmental monitoring will ensure the status of this species, to the benefit of both natural and human systems in the Indian River Lagoon. The knowledge generated as a result of this project may also provide a framework for sustainably managing other migratory baitfish.
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Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Myers, Olivia, "Business in the Estuary, Party in the Sea: Migration Patterns of Striped Mullet (Mugil cephalus) Within the Indian River Lagoon Complex" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 6686.