Biological Reference Points For Atlantic Surfclam (Spisula solidissima) In Warming Seas

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


Ocean Science and Engineering


Atlantic surfclam (Spisula solidissima) are a large, commercially important shellfish in the United States faced with several important management challenges. Compared to many harvested fish and shellfish, their life history is relatively unknown. They are undergoing contraction in the southern and inshore parts of their range, as well as expansion into deeper water. Atlantic surfclam are thermally sensitive, and the changes in their distribution track changes in maximum bottom temperature. Sessile species cannot emigrate and are limited to recruitment and mortality as mechanisms for redistribution in response to changing climate. Management of Atlantic surfclam should account for these challenges. We describe a simulation designed to calculate biological reference points that will work well for Atlantic surfclam relative to biological and fishery goals, over a range of life history parameters, assessment uncertainties, and increases in temperature. Simulations of the trade-off between somatic growth and mortality under increased temperature led to target fishing mortality rates higher than the status quo, but also to increased variability in yield. Results suggest that increasing temperature may adversely affect the Atlantic surfclam industry, which prefers stable catches to short term increases in yield, due to market limitations. The results of this analysis are specific to Atlantic surfclam, but the methods described here could be used to enhance management for other harvested species facing similar challenges.

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Fisheries Research



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