Oysters Beget Shell and Vice Versa: Generating Management Goals For Live Oysters and the Associated Reef to Promote Maximum Sustainable Yield of Crassostrea virginica

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


Ocean Science and Engineering


Populations of the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) have experienced declines from overfishing and disease throughout much of its US range, though development of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) management criteria has been elusive. This is due in part to the discordance between oyster spawning stock and recruits, as the classic stock–recruitment model does not account for the requirement of shell substrate on which recruits settle. This issue was recently addressed with the development of a surface area–recruitment model, which is herein incorporated into a simulation analysis to estimate MSY-based reference points for C. virginica in the Delaware Bay. Simulations demonstrate that at low natural mortality, fishing mortality (F) may be sustainable at values between 10% and 15%; however, if disease or other mortality-enhancing processes occur, the margin of error in fishing is small and may quickly lead to population and reef collapse, emphasizing a precautionary F < 10%. The MSY-based reference points generated here provide rebuilding goals for the oyster fishery and reef management on fished and unfished reefs and the framework from which shell-planting can be incorporated and optimized in the future.

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Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences

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