Conservation commonly requires trade-offs between social and ecological goals. For tropical small-scale fisheries, spatial scales of socially appropriate management are generally small—the median no-take locally managed marine area (LMMA) area throughout the Pacific is less than 1 km2. This is of particular concern for large coral reef fishes, such as many species of grouper, which migrate to aggregations to spawn. Current data suggest that the catchment areas (i.e. total area from which individuals are drawn) of such aggregations are at spatial scales that preclude effective community-based management with no-take LMMAs. We used acoustic telemetry and tag-returns to examine reproductive migrations and catchment areas of the grouper Epinephelus fuscoguttatus at a spawning aggregation in Papua New Guinea. Protection of the resultant catchment area of approximately 16 km2 using a no-take LMMA is socially untenable here and throughout much of the Pacific region. However, we found that spawning migrations were skewed towards shorter distances. Consequently, expanding the current 0.2 km2 no-take LMMA to 1–2 km2 would protect approximately 30–50% of the spawning population throughout the non-spawning season. Contrasting with current knowledge, our results demonstrate that species with moderate reproductive migrations can be managed at scales congruous with spatially restricted management tools.