Characterizing the Potential Habitat of Ichthyoplankton in the Gulf of Mexico for Species with Contrasting Life Histories

Gonzalo Daudén Bengoa1, Laura Del Pilar Echeverri García1, Sylvia Patricia Adlheid Jiménez-Rosenberg2 and Sharon Z Herzka1, (1)Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education at Ensenada, Biological Oceanography, Ensenada, BJ, Mexico, (2)National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico, Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas CICIMAR, La Paz, BS, Mexico
Potential habitat models have become an increasingly used method for characterizing fish larval habitat. Describing the potential habitat of fish larvae can yield insight into distribution patterns over temporal and spatial scales that cannot be easily characterized w discrete ichthyoplankton surveys, as well as setting a reference against which to assess the impact of anthropogenic and natural disturbances. Potential habitats are defined based on larval distribution and the environmental conditions that are suitable for development and survival. In the central Gulf of México (GoM), mesoscale circulation is dominated by the Loop Current (LC), LC-derived anticyclonic eddies that are transported westward and cyclonic eddies; these features influence productivity and water column characteristics and hence larval habitat. A semi-permanent cyclonic eddy in the Bay of Campeche (southern GoM) and other processes such as regional upwelling and offshore transport can also influence larval potential habitat. Between 2011-2017 nine oceanographic cruises covering the Mexican EEZ were conducted and fish larvae were collected using a bongo net sampler. Five taxa with different life history strategies, abundance and distribution patterns, spawning seasonality, and of varying economic importance were selected for the characterization of their potential habitat (Auxis spp., Benthosema suborbitale, Bregmaceros atlanticus, Caranx crysos and Cubiceps pauciradiatus). Their potential habitat will be characterized using generalized additive models correlating larval distribution with environmental parameters derived from in situ CTD and satellite-based measurements. The results of this study will yield insight into the potential larval habitat of representative fish species throughout the central and southern Gulf of Mexico.