Development of a Hatchery System for Sea Urchins in the Gulf of Maine

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Project Type: 
Research
Project Number: 
R/FMD-164
Inception Date: 
2000
Completion Date: 
2002
Theme Area: 
Fisheries Resources
Sustainable Aquaculture

Participants:

Larry Harris UNH - Department of Biological Sciences Principal Investigator
Jay Gingrich Industry Partner

Students Involved:

Petra Bertilsson-Friedman UNH - Department of Biological Sciences
Kinsey Frick UNH - Department of Biological Sciences
Chad Sisson UNH - Department of Biological Sciences
Megan Tyrrell UNH - Department of Biological Sciences
Suchana Chavanich UNH - Department of Biological Sciences
Jennifer Dijkstra Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve
Lauralyn Dyer UNH - Department of Biological Sciences
Abstract: 

The principal focus of this study is to develop a system for growing large batches of urchins from initial spawning through metamorphosis to a size at which they can be out planted for stock enhancement or aquaculture. The emphasis will be on developing a system to raise larvae utilizing natural plankton as a primary nutrition source and to investigate the potential of a microalgal film for juvenile grow out. These techniques utilizing natural food sources in open systems will be compared with more conventional closed cultivation systems developed in Japan in parallel cultivation experiments.

The continuous decline in urchin harvests and a parallel decline in urchin recruitment suggests that hatchery production of young urchins to supplement natural recruitment is a worthwhile goal. Preliminary results indicate the feasibility of hatchery production of green sea urchins and the extensive coastline of Maine should support a sustainable, major fishery for sea urchins with stock enhancement as a management technique.

Objectives: 

1) To develop a hatchery system for green sea urchins to provide young urchins for stock enhancement or aquaculture

2) To develop a larval cultivation system that maximizes survival and growth to metamorphosis by utilizing a flow-through system and natural plankton as a primary food source

3) To investigate the potential of an algal film as the primary diet for juvenile urchins to the point of out planting

Methodology: 

An open, flow-through larval cultivation system utilizing natural plankton provided by selective screening will be refined and compared with a closed cultivation approach developed by the Japanese. A grow out system utilizing a diatom film will be developed and tested against conventional diets for producing juvenile urchins of 10 mm or more in one year for winter out planting.

Preliminary studies have shown that natural diets for both larvae and juveniles can be effective, but further studies are needed to refine the systems and to make direct comparisons with conventional, closed cultivation approaches as to effectiveness, reliability and relative cost.

Rationale: 

The fishery for green sea urchins in the Gulf of Maine has shown a steady decline in catches since 1993. More recent studies have shown a comparable decline in recruitment of juveniles into benthic communities. The very low recruitment in the northeastern Gulf of Maine, combined with declining recruitment in the southwestern portions, suggest that hatchery systems for producing young urchins for stock enhancement is a desirable management option. Conventional closed hatchery systems similar to those used in Japan are too expensive to develop without significant government or commercial investment.

The goal is to develop an effective and repeatable larval and juvenile cultivation system that can be adopted by local fishermen's cooperatives to produce small urchins for out planting in a cost effective manner.

Accomplishments: 
The decline in the sea urchin fishery in the Gulf of Maine is proceeding at a rate that suggests that it will be almost defunct within about two years. There are a very few signs that urchins are appearing in the southern part of the Gulf and recruitment may be a little higher in some northern areas than previously observed. However, the recent stock assessments and catch records all suggest a continued decline. The development of a hatchery system for sea urchin aquaculture and potential reseeding of depleted beds is increasingly relevant and of interest. The new information that one may be able to utilize suspended cages for both juvenile grow out for out planting, but also that they may act to promote wild recruitment has stimulated a great deal of interest among fishermen, for it provides a way to possibly replace stocks by direct industry contributions. Studies undertaken during the summer of 2003 will provide interesting insights as to the feasibility of this approach.

Publications

Available from the National Sea Grant Library (use NHU number to search) or NH Sea Grant

Journal Article

  • Sisson, C. (2002). Dichotomous life history patterns for the nudibranch "Dendronotus frondosus" (Ascanius, 1774) in the Gulf of Maine. The Veliger 45(4):290-298.
  • Harris, L. and M. Tyrrell (2001). Changing community states in the Gulf of Maine: synergism between invaders, overfishing and climate change. Biological Invasions 3:9-21.
  • Chester, C., R. Turner, M. Carle and L. Harris (2000). Life history of a hydroid/nudibranch association: A discrete-event simulation. The Veliger 43(4):338-348.
  • Lawrence, J., M. Byrne, L. Harris, B. Keegan, S. Freeman and B. Cowell (1999). Sublethal arm loss in "Asterias amurensis, A. rubens, A. vulgaris," and "A. forbesi" (Echinodermata: Asteroidea). Vie et Milieu 49(1):69-73.
  • Lambert, D. and L. Harris (2000). Larval settlement of the green sea urchin, "Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis," in the southern Gulf of Maine. Invertebrate Biology 119(4):403-409.
  • Harris, L., P. Madigan and K. Waters (2003). A hatchery system for green sea urchin aquaculture in the Gulf of Maine. World Aquaculture 34(2):32-36, 71.
  • Chavanich, S. and L. Harris (2004). Impact of the non-native macroalga "Codium fragile" (Sur.) Hariot ssp. "tomentosoides" (van Goor) Silva on the native snail "Lacuna vincta" (Montagu, 1803) in the Gulf of Maine. The Veliger 47(2):85-90.
  • Mathieson, A., C. Dawes, L. Harris and E. Hehre (2003). Expansion of the Asiatic green alga "Codium fragile" subsp. "tomentosoides" in the Gulf of Maine. Rhodora 105(921):1-53, Winter 2003.
  • Chavanich, S. and L. Harris (2002). The influence of macroalgae on seasonal abundance and feeding preference of a subtital snail, "Lacuna vincta" (Montagu) (Littoninidae) in the Gulf of Maine. Journal of Molluscan Studies 68:73-78.

Thesis/Dissertation

  • Dyer, L. (2002). The population structure, algal preference and color distribution of the intertidal snail, "Littorina obtusata," along the New Hampshire coast. Master's Thesis, University of New Hampshire.
  • Sisson, C. (1998). An analysis of ecological, morphological, developmental and behavioral variation of the nudibranch, "Dendronotus frondosus": sibling speciation or phenotypic plasticity? Master's Thesis, University of New Hampshire.
  • Sisson, C. (2002). Life history dynamics of nudibranch sibling species in the Genus "Dendronotus" in the Gulf of Maine. Doctoral Dissertation, University of New Hampshire.
  • Tyrrell, M. (2002). Impacts of the introduced crabs, "Carcinus maenas" and "Hemigrapsus sanguineus," in northern New England. Doctoral Dissertation, University of New Hampshire.
  • Chavanich, S. (2001). Habitat ecology of the native subtidal snail, "Lacuna vincta," in the Gulf of Maine and the impact of two introduced species. Doctoral Dissertation, University of New Hampshire.
  • Bertilsson-Friedman, P. (2002). Shark inflicted injuries to the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, "Monachus schauinslandi." Master's Thesis, University of New Hampshire.

Proceeding

  • Harris, L. and A. Mathieson (1999). Patterns of range expansion, niche shift and predator acquisition in "Codium fragile" spp. "Tomentosoides" and "Membranipora membranacea" in the Gulf of Maine. Proceedings of the National Conference on Bioinvastions, Judith Pederson, ed., pp. 46-56, Cambridge, Mass., Jan. 24-27, 1999.
  • Chavanich, S. and L. Harris (1999). Potential impact of the introduced bryozoan, "Membranipora membranacea," on the subtidal snail, "Lacuna vincta," in the Gulf of Maine. Proceedings of the National Conference on Bioinvasions, Judith Pederson, ed., pp. 157-163, Cambridge, Mass., Jan. 24-27, 1999.
  • Tyrrell, M. and L. Harris (1999). Potential impact of the introduced Asian shore crab, "Hemigrapsus sanguineus," in northern New England: diet, feeding preferences, and overlap with the green crab, "Carcinus maenas." Proceedings of the National Conference on Marine Bioinvasions, Judith Pederson, ed., pp. 208-220, Cambridge, Mass., Jan. 24-27, 1999.
  • Harris, L. (2000). Sea ranching green sea urchins: a system for larval culture, juvenile grow out and out-planting. Proceedings of the Workshop on Coordination of Green Sea Urchin Research in Atlantic Canada, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, June 1-2, 2000.
  • Harris, L., M. Tyrrell, M. Williams, C. Sisson, S. Chavanich and C. Chester (2001). Declining sea urchin recruitment in the Gulf of Maine: is overharvesting to blame? In: Echinoderms 2000, Barker, ed., pp. 439-444.
  • Harris, L.G., P.A. Madigan and R.L. Toppin (2004). Test of a suspended recruitment and juvenile grow out system for the sea urchin "Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis" in the Gulf of Maine. Echinoderms: Munchen. Proceedings of the 11th International Echinoderm Conference, Munich, Germany, October 6-10, 2003. Heinzeller, Thomas and James H. Nebelsick, eds., pp. 277-282. A.A. Balkema Publishers, Leiden, The Netherlands.