• Effects of climate variability and fishing on gadid-crustacean interactions in subarctic ecosystems

      Marcello, Laurinda; Mueter, Franz; Eckert, Ginny; Kruse, Gordon (2011-12)
      Snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) are a vital economic and biotic resource to many subarctic ecosystems. Their abundance varies greatly, but what causes large changes in production and early life survival is unknown. My overall goal is to improve our understanding of snow crab population dynamics during early life history stages. Chapter 1 provides background information on subarctic ecosystems, addresses possible mechanisms of population control and potential drivers of variability, describes snow crab life history, and reviews recent population trends in snow crab and their major cod predators. Chapter 2 details a regression study examining the effects of snow crab spawning stock biomass, environmental conditions, and Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) or Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) biomass on snow crab recruitment. This study compares three ecosystems: the eastern Bering Sea, the Newfoundland-Labrador Shelf, and the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Cold ocean conditions during early life history were associated with increased snow crab recruitment or recruitment indices in all three ecosystems. However, there was no consistent observed effect of spawning stock biomass or gadid predation on subsequent recruitment. The dominant role of environmental conditions in driving snow crab recruitment highlights the importance of an ecosystem-based management approach for these stocks.
    • Impacts of sea otter predation on commercially important sea cucumbers (Parastichopus californicus) in Southeast Alaska

      Larson, Sean D.; Eckert, Ginny L.; Woodby, Douglas A.; Kruse, Gordon H. (2012-12)
      Consequences from management actions, particularly those regarding species reintroductions, are not always immediately apparent. After sea otters were extirpated from Southeast Alaska in the 18th and 19th century fur trade, it is presumed that marine invertebrate stocks grew in the absence of sea otter predation. Since reintroduction in the 1960s, the Southeast Alaska sea otter population has grown, with great potential to deplete the commercially important sea cucumber, Parastichopus californicus. This study evaluates the interaction with and impacts of sea otters on sea cucumbers using foraging observations and sea cucumber density data collected for fishery management. Sea otter diets, in terms of edible biomass, include about only 5% cucumbers, and yet sea otters are depleting sea cucumbers; declines in sea cucumber density at sea otter affected transects ranged from 26 to 100%. Sea otter predation should be included in sea cucumber fishery management, possibly as an additional form of mortality in the surplus production model, as a step toward ecosystem based management.