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Dolphinfish Migration in the Caribbean

Most people have already an idea of the migration routes of dolphinfish in the Caribbean, but where exactly do they come from and where are they headed the rest of the year? recent studies show two different routes moving clockwise through the Caribbean. In fact, there’s enough scientific evidence to support the theory of two different stocks of dolphinfish travelling at different times of year.

The peak catch in Grenada is in February/March; Barbados, St. Vincent, and St. Lucia in March/April; Martinique and Guadeloupe in April; and the Virgin Islands in April/May, giving the Virgin Islands their first and largest annual peak. This pattern of seasonal catch suggests a single stock (the southern stock) moving northwest through the island arc. If the stock then turned west and moved past Puerto Rico, then the peak catch there would be expected between June, July, and August; but this is when Puerto Rico catches the least dolphin. This means that after leaving the Virgin Islands, the stock moves northeasterly into the Atlantic, completing a circuit and returning to Grenada by February/March of the following year.

This means that there is a second stock (the northern stock) located in the northwest region of the western central Atlantic. It occurs near Puerto Rico between December and February. It next moves northwest passing the Bahamas in April/May, Florida and Georgia in May/June, South and North Carolina in June/July, and Bermuda in July/August. It then completes its circuit by passing through the Virgin Islands, giving that territory its second and smaller peak in November and returning to Puerto Rico by December/February.

Map showing the routes of both dolphinfish stocks

Trinidad and Tobago is one of the first spots that the southern dolphinfish stock visits after their yearly circuit through the Atlantic ocean, which may be the reason behind the great numbers of dolphinfish caught every year in these waters. It's important to appreciate this natural phenomenon and enjoy it in a responsible manner. The fact that these fish are very abundant and have a rapid growth doesn't mean they are immune to fishing pressure: make sure you only keep fish over 50 cm long (20 inches) or over 6 pounds in weight. Read more about dolphinfish here.

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