Reproduction of the blue-footed booby predicts commercial fish abundance in the eastern tropical Pacific

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To establish whether reproduction in a colony of the blue-footed booby in the eastern tropical Pacific predicts local abundance of prey fish several months later, 13 years of data were analysed. Eight reproductive variables assessed during the period of January–May, grouped in two factors, were related to commercial catches in the surrounding 6600 km2 area during the following June–December. The first factor explained 33% of interannual variance in fish captures per unit effort during June–December (future FCUE), and 63% when only El Niño years were considered. Also, the proportion of large clutches present on three single-day censuses in the spring explained 51, 46 and 35% of variance in future FCUE among all years, and 78, 85 and 82% of variance among El Niño years. In contrast, sea surface temperatures in March did not explain variance in future FCUE. Proportion of large clutches is a moderately good predictor of the abundance of commercial fish during the subsequent seven months and can be satisfactorily and cheaply measured on a single day.

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