The Use of Reproductive Indicators for Conservation Purposes: The Case Study of Palinurus elephas in Two Fully Protected Areas and Their Surrounding Zones (Central-Western Mediterranean)

European spiny lobster fecundity reproductive output egg production no-take zones


In 1990s, the European spiny lobster Palinurus elephas, one of the most commercially important species in the Mediterranean, exhibited a population decline. For this reason, fully protected areas (FPAs) appeared effective in re-establishing natural populations and supporting fishery-management objectives. Here, the reproductive parameters of P. elephas populations in two different FPAs (Su Pallosu and Buggerru, central-western Mediterranean), where a restocking programme was carried out, and in their surrounding commercial zones, were investigated from quantitative and qualitative perspectives. The comparison of fecundity between females collected inside and outside FPAs did not show statistical differences as well as the vitellogenin concentration, which did not vary among eggs of different classes of females caught inside and outside the FPAs, indicating the same reproductive potential. The study demonstrated a benefit of overexploited populations in terms of enhancement of egg production overtime (15 years for Su Pallosu and 6 years for Buggerru) with a mean egg production 4.25–5.5 times higher at the end of the study than that observed at the beginning of the study. The main driver of eggs production appeared to be , with larger lobsters more present inside the FPAs than outside. Given these results, the dominant contribution of the two studied FPAs to the regional lobster reproduction is remarkable.