Waldport, OR, United States
Waldport, OR, United States

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Stoner A.W.,Community Conch | Stoner A.W.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Mueller K.W.,Lummi Indian Business Council | Brown-Peterson N.J.,University of Southern Mississippi | And 2 more authors.
Fisheries Research | Year: 2012

The queen conch (Strombus gigas) is a large economically important gastropod that has been severely depleted throughout much of the Caribbean region. The species has determinate growth and reaches maximum shell length before sexual maturation; thereafter the shell grows only in thickness. In this study, queen conch were collected in the Exuma Cays, Bahamas, to evaluate maturity with respect to shell length (SL) (170-255. mm) and shell lip thickness (LT) (2-42. mm). Soft tissue weight and gonad weight increased with SL, but these same variables, along with the gonadosomatic index (gonad weight/soft tissue weight), all had dome-shaped distributions with LT and decreased slightly with LT > 22. mm. This indicates some loss of fecundity with age; however, no loss of reproductive capability was evident in histological data. Gonad maturity lagged substantially behind first formation of the shell lip. Minimum LT for reproductive maturity was 12. mm for females and 9. mm for males, and 50% maturity for the population was achieved at 26. mm LT for females and 24. mm LT for males, higher than previous estimates. A review of fishing regulations indicates that immature queen conch are being harvested legally in most Caribbean nations, providing at least a partial explanation for widespread depletion. While relationships between shell lip thickness, age, and maturity vary geographically, sustainable management of queen conch will require a minimum shell lip thickness for harvest no less than 15. mm, along with other urgently needed management measures. © 2012.

Stoner A.W.,Community Conch | Stoner A.W.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Davis M.H.,Community Conch | Booker C.J.,Community Conch
Marine Ecology Progress Series | Year: 2012

Effectiveness of a marine protected area (MPA) in supporting fisheries productivity depends upon replenishment patterns, both in supplying recruits to surrounding fished areas and having a sustainable spawning stock in the MPA. Surveys for queen conch Strombus gigas were made in 2011 at 2 locations in the Exuma Cays, The Bahamas, for direct comparison with surveys conducted during the early 1990s at Warderick Wells (WW) near the center of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (ECLSP) and at a fished site near Lee Stocking Island (LSI). There was no change in adult conch density and abundance in the shallow bank environment at LSI where numbers were already low in 1991, but numbers declined 91% in the deeper shelf waters. At WW, the adult population declined 69% on the bank and 6% on the island shelf. Unlike observations made in the 1990s, queen conch reproductive behavior near LSI is now rare. Average age of adult conch (indicated by shell thickness) at LSI decreased significantly during the 20 yr period between surveys, while average age increased at WW and juvenile abundance decreased. These results show that the LSI population is being overfished and the WW population is senescing because of low recruitment. In 2011, the ECLSP continued to be an important source of larvae for downstream populations because of abundant spawners in the shelf environment. However, it is clear that the reserve is not self-sustaining for queen conch, and sustainable fishing in the Exuma Cays will depend upon a network of MPAs along with other management measures to reduce fishing mortality. © Inter-Research 2012.

Stoner A.W.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Davis M.H.,Community Conch | Booker C.J.,Community Conch
Bulletin of Marine Science | Year: 2012

Relationships between density of mature adults and mating frequency in queen conch (Strombus gigas Linnaeus, 1758) were observed at three sites in the central Bahamas including one no-take marine reserve (Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park) and two historically important fishing grounds (Berry Islands and Andros Island). No mating was observed in any one count with density < 47 adults ha -1, consistent with an earlier study suggesting a mate-finding Allee effect in queen conch. The unfished site had larger and older conch, and mating at that site increased rapidly with adult density, reaching an asymptote at 12%-14% of the population mating at highest density levels. Logistic modeling showed that a 90% probability of mating occurred at 100 adults ha -1. Mating frequencies increased more slowly with density on the fishing grounds; asymptotic mating frequencies were 6.3% in the Berry Islands and just 2.3% at Andros Island. In contrast to the marine reserve, 90% probability of mating required 350 and 570 adults ha -1 at Andros Island and the Berry Islands, respectively. Higher densities required for successful mating in the fished areas were associated with numerical dominance by small, thick-shelled adults. The small phenotype in adults appears to result from selectivity imposed by fishing pressure, and those adults had low mating frequencies, compounding the density effect on reproduction. Because releases of hatchery-reared queen conch have not been successful, preserving the integrity of spawner density and population structure will be critical for conch conservation. © 2012 Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

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