Prioritizing spawning habitats in terms of their relative contribution to recruitment success

Principal Investigator: John Walter
Co-Principal Investigators: Mandy Karnauskas, Nick Farmer, Skyler Sagarese
External Collaborator: Claire Paris (University of Miami)

Fisheries management has historically been centered on the concept of maintaining spawning stock biomass (SSB), but modern management measures have increasingly been designed to exploit the fact that not all SSB contributes equally to stock sustainability. For example, older females have been shown to have higher quality eggs (Berkeley et al. 2004), and subsequently there has been increased focus on protection of older age classes. For fishes that spawn in the pelagic environment, the survival of eggs also depends on currents that place them near suitable recruitment habitats. Naturally, some sites will yield higher overall recruitment rates than others, and these should be identified and protected for optimal management.

GoM-HYCOM.pngTrajectories.pngThe purpose of this project is to increase our understanding of important spawning habitats, with respect to their contribution to the recruitment pool, with the goal of creating products that can inform both single-species and ecosystem-based assessments. We estimate the relative contribution of SSB to the recruitment pool through the use of a biophysical model, the Connectivity Modeling System (CMS). The CMS is an individual- based larval transport model which was developed to study complex larval behaviors (Paris et al. 2013). We build on existing parameterizations of the CMS for red snapper and gag in the Gulf of Mexico, which were previously used to answer questions about temporal trends in recruitment strength. This research will consider patterns of recruitment success in space. The project addresses needs of the Gulf Council and Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, and improves the availability and utility of habitat information in support of the stock assessment process, with a focus on spawning habitat for species in the Gulf of Mexico.


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Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC)


Annual Report - Year 1

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