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University of Missouri researcher uncovers migration patterns and threats to common snook

November 28, 2023  By Hatchery International staff

Allison Pease is studying the common snook. (Photo: University of Missouri)

Allison Pease, a fish ecologist in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at the University of Missouri, is studying the common snook.

The common snook is an important game fish in Mexico both culturally and economically, but it’s at risk of facing endangering due to over-harvesting. Pease’s latest study focuses on its migration patterns and the effects of proposed hydro dams on the population in southern Mexico.

In the Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas, she investigated the snook’s almost 400-mile migration up into the rainforest habitat of the Usumacinta River where she and her team uncovered that the snook, which connects aquatic food webs and support fisheries, spawn and start their lives in coastal nursery habitats before moving into river habitats.

According to the press release from the University of Missouri, “Since the 1980s, there have been recurring proposals to construct hydropower dams in this river system, which would restrict the migratory domain these fish currently occupy when they go up to 400 miles into the rainforest from the Gulf of Mexico.” 


“The more we can understand what the fish needs and where it’s moving, the more we can inform conservation efforts in terms of identifying places to restrict harvest during certain times of the year to keep this fishery going,” said Pease in the press release.

In her research, she used otolith microchemistry — the measuring of the chemical composition of the layers of bone that grow in a fish’s ear as it matures — to determine approximately where each snook had lived during its lifetime, giving her insight into the snook’s migration patterns and whether the fish returned to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to spawn or spent their adult lives in the river ecosystem.

Pease hopes this research will advance the science of understanding how the common snook functions and serves an important role in informing fisheries conservation. 

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