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Starvation reduces attractiveness of live bait lobsters and trap catch in the Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) fishery in Florida

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The commercial lobster fishery for spiny lobster, Panulirus argus (Latreille, 1804), in Florida predominantly uses traps baited with live, sublegal lobsters. These bait lobsters are often subjected to long periods of starvation when confined within these traps, yet the effects of this long-term confinement and starvation of bait lobsters on bait attractiveness and trap efficiency remain unknown. We used a series of chemical choice experiments to test whether lobsters avoided conspecifics that were starved for 3, 5, or 7 wks, and a field-based trap experiment to test whether trap catch was reduced when traps were baited with starved lobsters. In chemical choice experiments, focal lobsters were significantly less attracted to lobsters subjected to any length of starvation than to lobsters that were not starved. Furthermore, traps baited with starved lobsters caught 40% fewer lobsters than traps baited with healthy lobsters. Our findings suggest that the long-term confinement and starvation of lobsters used as live bait in the Florida spiny lobster fishery may indeed reduce the effectiveness of these baits, as well as diminish the catch efficiency of traps. The reduction of the confinement duration of bait lobsters should increase the attraction to conspecific bait lobsters, and thus increase lobster catch in traps baited with healthy lobsters. Efforts to sustain the health of bait lobsters should reduce bait mortality and potentially bolster future stocks.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, 2796 Overseas Hwy Suite 119, Marathon, Florida 33050;, Email: [email protected] 2: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, 2796 Overseas Hwy Suite 119, Marathon, Florida 33050

Publication date: 01 July 2018

This article was made available online on 12 April 2018 as a Fast Track article with title: "Starvation reduces attractiveness of live bait lobsters and trap catch in the Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) fishery in Florida".

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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