Habitat associations of adult queen conch (Strombus gigas L.) in an unfished Florida Keys back reef: applications to essential fish habitat
Abstract:The identifi cation of essential fish habitat (EFH) is critical for the effective management of an aquatic species. In Florida, the fishery for queen conch, Strombus gigas L., has been closed since 1986 due to declines attributed in part to habitat degradation and overfishing. To examine the habitat requirements of adult conch, 39 conch were tagged with acoustic transmitters and tracked from June 1997 through June 1998 within two back reef sites in the Florida Keys. Sampling occurred biweekly and consisted of recording each conch's habitat, geospatial position, and reproductive activity. The area of the available habitat and the frequencies of observations in each habitat were used to estimate habitat utilization, selection, and preference. At one site, conch showed a strong preference for the coarse-sand and rubble/coarse-sand habitats and avoided rubble. At the other site, no habitat was preferred or avoided. Actively reproducing conch avoided seagrass at one site and rubble at the other. In general, conch selected the coarse-sand habitat for reproduction. It is likely that the harvest moratorium influenced the spatial distribution of conch. We suggest that EFH for Florida's conch be considered at a scale that incorporates a mosaic of habitats supporting a range of biological functions in the back reef.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: September 1, 2004
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