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Lobster larval transport in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence

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A bio-physical semi-Langrangian model was developed to follow the drift and abundance of lobster larvae from hatching to settlement as post-larvae. The geographic domain encompasses Northumberland Strait and the areas surrounding Prince Edward Island in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. The model was run for ten larval seasons, 1983–87 and 1997–2001, representing two periods of egg production. The model was forced with tides, winds, heat fluxes, and marine and freshwater fluxes at open boundaries. Biological inputs were location, date, and density of larvae at hatching, development rates, a time window and a minimum bottom temperature required for successful settlement, and two scenarios of daily mortality. Net drift was west to east but stronger on the north than the south side of Prince Edward Island. The hatch was greater in the second 5-yr period, but the spatial patterns of settlement were similar. For both mortality scenarios, the same five of the 24 larval source areas were important in providing settlers. Horizontal shear of larval distribution indicates fishing communities were dependent on the hatch from fishing grounds of multiple upstream communities. Variation in daily and annual post-larval settlement was greatest north of Prince Edward Island. From the 24 source areas there was an eightfold range in the fraction of larvae surviving to settlement, with advection into deep water an important cause of mortality. Four to five possible fishery management areas were identified using multidimensional scaling to group sink areas having shared source areas. We hypothesize leaky discontinuity in connectivity between these groups.
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Keywords: Gulf of St. Lawrence; Homarus; bio-physical model; larval mortality; larval transport; lobster

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-09-01

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