Within the Big Bend region of the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, one of the least developed coastlines in the continental USA, intertidal and subtidal populations of eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica (hereafter referred to as “oyster”) are a critical ecosystem and important economic constituent. We assessed trends in intertidal oyster populations, river discharge, and commercial fishing activity in the Suwannee River estuary within the Big Bend region using fisheries‐independent data from irregular monitoring efforts and publicly available environmental data. We used generalized linear models to evaluate counts of oysters from line‐transect surveys over time and space. We assessed model performance using simulation to understand potential bias and then evaluated whether these counts were related to freshwater inputs from the Suwannee River and commercial oyster fishing effort and landings at different time lags. We found that intertidal oyster counts have declined over time and that most of these declines are found in inshore intertidal oyster bars, which are becoming degraded. We also found a significant relationship between oyster counts and a 1‐year lag on mean daily Suwannee River discharge, but including commercial fishery trips or landings did not improve model fit. It is unclear whether declines in intertidal oyster bars are offset by formation of new oyster reefs elsewhere. These results quantify rapid declines in intertidal oyster reefs in a region of coastline with high conservation value that can be used to inform ongoing and proposed restoration projects in the region.
|Title||Trends in oyster populations in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico: An assessment of river discharge and fishing effects over time and space|
|Authors||J. F Moore, W. E Pine, P. C Frederick, Sarah Becker, Marcos Moreno, Michael Dodrill, Matthew Boone, L Sturmer, Simeon Yurek|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Southwest Biological Science Center; Western Fisheries Research Center|
Simeon Yurek, Ph.D.
Simeon Yurek, Ph.D.