The North Pacific giant octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) is an important member of pan-Pacific coastal ecosystems and represents a large incidental catch in Alaska; however little is known about the biology and ecology of this species, which hinders management. To improve our understanding of E. dofleini biology, I conducted a multiyear tagging study in a 25 km2 study area in the eastern Bering Sea (EBS). I used Visible Implant Elastomers to determine growth and movement patterns for E. dofleini and sacrificed octopus were examined to determine seasonal and sex-specific reproductive characteristics. Using tagging data and Cormack-Jolly-Seber models, I estimated survival and study-area abundance for E. dofleini and expanded the abundance estimates to neighboring areas where most of the incidental catch of octopus occurs. In this three-year study, a total of 1,714 E. dofleini were tagged and 246 were recaptured. In autumn when temperatures were warmest, E. dofleini had higher growth rates, moved more and both sexes were predominantly mature when compared to colder winter months. Size also played a role in E. dofleini ecology, with smaller octopus growing faster than larger octopus and larger, mature octopus moving more than smaller, immature octopus. The abundance estimate for octopus in the study area was 3,180 octopus or 127 octopus per km2, and annual survival was 3.33%. Using 20 years of data from the federal groundfish observer program, I estimated that the biomass for E. dofleini in the area where most of the incident catch occurs was 20,697 mt of octopus, an order of magnitude larger than the current biomass estimate for the entire EBS. Though the study area and the scale of the mark-recapture effort were limited, the survival and abundance estimates are from the same area where most of the octopus are in incidentally captured and represent an important first step in enhancing octopus management. However, the large estimates of biomass suggest the current management is too conservative and the estimates of survival suggest that management estimates of mortality are too low.
Thesis (Ph.D.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2016
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction -- Chapter 2: Long-term retention of internal elastomer tags in a wild population of North Pacific giant octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) -- Chapter 3: Temperature and size-dependent growth and movement of the North Pacific giant octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) in the Bering Sea -- Chapter 4: Estimates of abundance and survival of the North Pacific giant octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) in the eastern Bering Sea -- Chapter 5: Seasonal sex-specific reproductive characteristics of the North Pacific giant octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) in the Bering Sea -- Chapter 6: Conclusions.
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