Predator Prey Interactions

sb.7 (1 of 1)While overfishing has historically plagued  fisheries, there are a number of success stories throughout the United States including that of the striped bass fishery in the Western Atlantic. Striped Bass are highly migratory, voracious predators that typically spawn in mid-Atlantic estuaries and brackish habitats and migrate north during the spring and summer. Harvested for centuries, Striped Bass were a staple for the colonizers of early America, but populations dropped tremendously in the late twentieth century due to overfishing, habitat destruction, and unfavorable environmental conditions (i.e., salinity and dissolved oxygen) . The implementation of the Striped Bass Conservation Act of 1984, allowed for the complete recovery of Striped Bass along the western Atlantic; illuminating one of the prominent fishery success stories in the U.S. Unfortunately, more recent declines, (specifically, spawning stock biomass is approaching overfished status) have spurred policy changes in both commercial and recreational sectors in many coastal states to safeguard against another collapse. Picture1Therefore, this research aims to inform fisheries management by furthering our understanding of how these predators interact with their abiotic and biotic environment.

 

A large portion of my dissertation explores the interaction between the striped bass and its most important prey items, such as the American lobster, green crab, rock crab, Atlantic herring, and Atlantic mackerel. First, I want to determine if the striped bass is exerting a strong enough top-down force on the economically important American lobster and possibly otherStriper1 (1 of 1) prey items. By examining their diets, I will be able to infer the total biomass of different prey items that striped bass consume in northern Massachusetts.

Interestingly, larger striped bass seem to consume more  crustaceans like lobster and crabs as compared to small individuals that rely more heavily on fish prey in northern Massachusetts. Using stomach content analysis and stable isotope analysis, a technique that allows of the approximation of past diet, the second portion of this research will examine the potential repercussions of consuming these different types of prey.

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