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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13537

Atlantic puffin diet reflects haddock and redfish abundance in the Gulf of Maine

Katelyn M. Depot*, Lauren C. Scopel, Stephen W. Kress, Paula Shannon, Antony W. Diamond, Kyle H. Elliott

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Ecosystem-based fisheries management, which considers the interactions between fisheries, target species, and the physical and biological components of ecosystems, is necessary to ensure that directed fisheries avoid adverse impacts to ecosystems over the long term. The successful implementation of ecosystem-based fisheries management requires an understanding of predator–prey relationships and ways to operationalize such relationships to inform fisheries management. Here, we investigate if the diet of a generalist predator, Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica, can be used as an indicator of the abundance of 2 commercially exploited prey species (haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus,and Acadian redfish Sebastes fasciatus) in the Gulf of Maine. Because haddock and redfish eaten by puffins are juveniles (age 0), there is potential to use their proportions and lengths in puffin diet to better understand the processes influencing haddock and redfish recruitment. By using principal component analysis to develop measures of diet across multiple puffin colonies, we show both spatial variation and large-scale patterns in the proportions and lengths of haddock and redfish in puffin diet. Spawning stock biomass was a strong predictor of haddock proportion in puffin diet and a moderate predictor of redfish proportion; however, proportions in puffin diet did not predict age 1 recruitment, suggesting that variation in recruitment is caused by processes that occur after the puffin breeding season and affect the survival of older juveniles. Haddock length on one colony was a moderate predictor of age 1 recruitment. We conclude that puffin diet can be used as an indicator of haddock and redfish abundance.