Development of a Sustainable Urchin Fishery in the Gulf of Maine

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Project Type: 
Research
Project Number: 
R/FMD-122
Inception Date: 
1995
Completion Date: 
1998
Theme Area: 
Fisheries Resources
Sustainable Aquaculture

Participants:

Larry Harris UNH - Department of Biological Sciences Principal Investigator
Jay Gingrich Associate Investigator
R. Bryant Associate Investigator

Students Involved:

Chad Sisson UNH - Department of Biological Sciences
Megan Tyrrell UNH - Department of Biological Sciences
Charles Chester
Helena Matthews-Cascon
Eric Lovely
Cheryl Gibeault
Susan Reidy UNH - Department of Biological Sciences
Objectives: 

1) To test and refine techniques for enhancing urchin recruitment

2) To test and refine techniques for increasing growth rates and roe content in field populations of urchins

3) To compare the effectiveness and impact of trap-based and diver-based harvesting on manipulated and control populations of urchins

4) To synthesize existing and acquired information into a series of recommendations for developing and managing a sustainable urchin fishery

Methodology: 

Two urchin-dominated areas at the Isles of Shoals, NH, will be subdivided into control and manipulated areas. Recruitment experiments will test the use of refuges for newly settled urchins, and food availability will be manipulated to compare growth and roe content. Harvesting techniques will be compared to determine their impact on urchin population recovery for sustained harvesting.

Rationale: 

This study is aimed at applying existing information to develop a set of procedures to increase urchin population recovery to match harvesting pressure, and produce a sustainable urchin fishery of great economic benefit in the coastal zone of Maine and New Hampshire. The results will be made available directly to fishermen and state regulatory agencies.

Accomplishments: 
Larval culture
 
The basic approaches to spawning urchins and culturing larvae are well established and we demonstrated their practicality with the green urchin. However, to use the Japanese system for larval culture is most expensive in effort and facilities. Stephen Whitney has developed a simple system that involves using natural microplankton selectively filtered in a flow-through system. The system will need refinement, but it is effective at culturing larval urchins through metamorphosis and it is much less expensive in facilities and labor than the totally closed system used by the Japanese. If this system can be refined and adapted to the local conditions, it should be possible for cooperatives of local fishermen along the coast of Maine to establish their own hatchery systems that could support local fisheries.
 
Juvenile growth studies
 
The information and techniques for maintaining juvenile sea urchins to out planting size are much less understood than that for cultivation of larvae. We have conducted a number of studies on the growth of juvenile sea urchins. We have found that a diatom film supplemented with the readily abundant green alga Ulva lactuca will grow young-of-the-year urchins to over 15mm in diameter in less than a year. I am currently maintaining growth studies of over 700 urchins settled out in June, 1998, and the largest of these animals are over 32mm. They have only been fed an easily grown diatom film and Ulva and this diet can be easily grown in a flow-through system anywhere in the Gulf of Maine. I have been collaborating with Dr. Michael Russell of Villanova University on juvenile growth studies.
 
Size and timing for out planting
 
The Japanese grow their urchins to 20mm in diameter before releasing them. Preliminary studies have shown that 10mm animals released in mid winter in the Gulf of Maine will have up to 90% survival over a two month period which will allow them to integrate into the community. Predators are not active in the winter months in the Gulf of Maine and out planting animals at this time will insure the greatest survival. It is most feasible to have a complete cycle of larval cultivation, juvenile grow out and out planting of urchins greater than 10mm in less than one year, so that the hatchery facilities and staff can concentrate on beginning the next cycle without overlap from the previous one.

Publications

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

Journal Article

  • 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.
  • Neefus, C., B. Allen, H. Baldwin, A. Mathieson, R. Eckert, C. Yarish and M. Miller (1993). An examination of the population genetics of "Laminaria" and other brown algae in the laminariales using starch gel electrophoresis. Hydrobiologia 260/261:67-79.
  • Harris, L. and C. Chester (1996). Effects of location, exposure and physical structure on juvenile recruitment of the sea urchin "Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis" in the Gulf of Maine. Invertebrate Reproduction and Development 30(1-3):207-215.

Thesis/Dissertation

  • 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.
  • Lovely, E. (1995). Coexistence of hydroid predators and persistence of prey, "Tubularia larynx" and "Tubularia indivisa" (Hydrozoa: Tubulariidae), in shallow fouling communities. Master's Thesis, University of New Hampshire.
  • Tyrrell, M. (1999). Predicted impacts of the introduced crab, "Hemograpsus sanguineus," in northern New England. Master's Thesis, University of New Hampshire.
  • Lovely, E. (1999). Evolution of Pycnogonid life history traits. Doctoral Dissertation, University of New Hampshire.

Proceeding

  • Balch, T., R. Scheibling, L. Harris, C. Chester and S. Robinson (1998). Variation in settlement of "Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis" in the northwest Atlantic: effects of spatial scale and sampling method. Proceedings of the 9th International Echinoderm Conference, Mooi and Telford, eds., pp. 555-560, Balkema, Rotterdam.
  • Harris, L., M. Tyrrell and C. Chester (1998). Changing patterns for two sea stars in the Gulf of Maine, 1976-1996. Proceedings of the 9th International Echinoderm Conference, Mooi and Telford, eds., pp. 243-248, Balkema, Rotterdam.
  • 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.
  • Harris, L. (1994). Studies on the effects of depth, water flow and diet on settlement, recruitment and growth of the green sea urchin, "Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis" in the Gulf of Maine. 1994 Workshop on the Management and Biology of the Green Sea Urchin ("Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis"), pp. 75-93, Boothbay Harbor, Maine, Sept. 27-28, 1994.
  • 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.
  • Williams, C. and L. Harris (1998). Growth of juvenile green sea urchins on natural and artifical diets. Proceedings of the 9th International Echinoderm Conference, Mooi and Telford, eds., pp. 889-892, Balkema, Rotterdam.