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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 294:213-226 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps294213

Spatial patterns in the ovigerous Callinectes sapidus spawning migration: results from a coupled behavioral-physical model

Sarah D. Carr1,*, James L. Hench1, Richard A. Luettich Jr1, Richard B. Forward Jr2, Richard A. Tankersley3

1Institute of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 3431 Arendell Street, Morehead City, North Carolina 28557, USA
2Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, Duke University, 135 Duke Marine Lab Road, Beaufort, North Carolina 28516, USA
3Department of Biological Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology, 150 West University Boulevard, Melbourne, Florida 32901, USA

ABSTRACT: Ovigerous blue crabs Callinectes sapidus use ebb-tide transport (ETT), a vertical migratory behavior in which crabs ascend into the water column during ebb tides, to migrate from estuarine adult habitats to coastal larval release locations. We have developed a detailed behavioral model of ovigerous blue crab ETT from previous laboratory and field studies and coupled this model to a hydrodynamic model of the Beaufort Inlet region of North Carolina. We have simulated the trajectories of migratory ovigerous crabs in the region and determined spatial patterns in migratory success, migratory speeds, the residence times of crabs in different regions of the estuary, and potential larval-release locations. Highly active crabs can start their migration from almost anywhere in the estuary and reach suitable larval-release locations within a typical 4 d migratory period, whereas crabs with lower activity levels can only reach suitable larval-release locations if they start their migration in the lower-to-mid estuary. Migratory speeds in the estuary range from <1 to >8 km d–1. Crabs with lower activity levels are resident in the mid-to-upper estuary for relatively long periods of time, whereas highly active crabs are resident in the lower estuary and coastal ocean for most of the migratory period. Larval release is predicted to occur throughout the estuary and in the coastal ocean within ~5 km of Beaufort Inlet. Fisheries managers can use these spatial patterns to determine management strategies (e.g. spatial closures to fishing) that will protect migratory blue crab spawning stock in tidal regions effectively.

KEY WORDS: Blue crab · Callinectes sapidus · Spawning migration · Selective tidal-stream transport · Ebb-tide transport · Larval release · Coupled biological-physical model · Beaufort Inlet

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