Project Details


With a global human population of nearly 6.9 billion, demand for global food is putting pressure on fisheries resources worldwide. The great challenge of managing fisheries is balancing the global need for marine food resources with the long-term sustainability and stability of the populations being fished. Fisheries rely on marine ecosystems for production of the animals that are harvested; however, the productivity of the natural systems are delicately balanced and can be damaged from human activity on land and at sea, and is changing in unexpected ways as the regional and global climate changes. A major objective of this proposal is to understand how patterns of population connectivity can help us understand dynamics in fishery productivity and the capacity of these populations to respond to stressors like fisheries and climate change.In New Jersey, over 85% of all commercial fishery landings are from invertebrate fisheries. The vast clam populations living in the sandy bottom along the Mid-Atlantic continental shelf are not only the basis of a major fishing industry, but also an important part of the marine coastal shelf ecosystem through their high filtration capacity and massive benthic biomass. Also fishing along the Mid-Atlantic shelf, the sea scallop fishery is currently the most valuable fishery in the U.S.; its ex-vessel value in 2011 was over $580 million. In state waters, oysters in Delaware Bay have provided a sustainable fishery resource, critical reef habitat and contributed to the local economy in New Jersey for centuries. For all of these fished populations to sustain themselves, their pelagic offspring have to survive weeks in the water column as developing microscopic larvae and then find suitable habitat miles from their birthplace where they can grow to adulthood. Temporal trends in population characteristics such as abundance and gene frequencies influence the ability of a population to support a fishery and to respond to changing climate. Sustainable management of fishery resources relies on understanding and predicting these changes over time. Dynamics in abundance occur in part through changes in the supply of new individuals to a population, a process called larval dispersal. Genetics are likewise shared among populations of shellfish through larval dispersal. In this way larval dispersal is a mechanism that controls important dynamics in shellfishery stocks. Surprisingly, despite the financial and ecological importance of the fisheries and the scale of the species' distribution, little is known about the early life stages and how populations are connected with one another. Add to this a sensitivity of these populations to climate-driven changes in bottom water temperatures, potential impacts of increasing extreme storm frequency and potential negative impacts of ocean acidification on larval development, and the vulnerability of these populations as major marine food resources becomes disconcertingly clear. The proposed research will directlysupport management and sustainability of the commercial shellfisheries in the Mid-Atlantic.
Effective start/end date2/10/142/9/19


  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA))


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