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OYSTER HABITAT SUITABILITY AS A COMPONENT OF RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
Fisher, W S. OYSTER HABITAT SUITABILITY AS A COMPONENT OF RESOURCE MANAGEMENT. Presented at National Shellfisheries Association 94th Annual Meeting, Mystic, CT, April 14-18, 2002.
Economic and ecological issues have led resource managers to examine depletion of eastern oyster reefs along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts. Crassostrea virginica is a lucrative commercial species (over $60M in 2000) that also supports ecosystem integrity by providing enhanced vigor, organization and resilience. These values are threatened by overfishing, habitat perturbation and land use changes that are also economically-driven, but diminish the survival of both oysters and reefs. Relevant and defensible scientific information is required to assess costs and benefits of healthy and productive oyster reefs and to establish management goals for their conservation, mitigation and restoration. Characterization of
environmental conditions that support oyster survival and propagation is a requisite for this assessment. In this regard, habitat suitability indices (HSI) have been developed that can be used to identify potential sites for mitigation and restoration. However, greater attention is needed on conditions for spat settlement, a bottleneck life-stage for oyster populations. Although spat may settle on many substrates, success is greatest on bivalve shells and limited by even thin layers of sediment deposition. Better understanding of currents, turbidity,
sediment deposition and other conditions that influence larval settling are needed to improve HSI evaluations and the potential for successful oyster reefs.