Movement and population connectivity of fishes across estuarine seascapes

2012-2014 - $207,012

Jay R. Rooker (TAMU/TAMUG), Gregory W. Stunz (TAMU-CC)

Abstract

Defining essential habitats of estuarine-dependent fishes and connections among habitats and across complex seascapes are fundamental to implementing ecosystem-based fisheries management.   Unfortunately, our understanding of fish-habitat relationships and population connectivity is limited for many species of fishes that use estuaries, limiting our ability to develop spatially explicit management plans.  Here, we propose to use a novel approach (acoustic telemetry with VR2W position system) to characterize movement and habitat connectivity of juvenile (age-1+) red drum and spotted seatrout at two spatial scales within the Corpus Christi Bay and Mission Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve (CCB-MANERR).  We will use an acoustic positioning system in conjunction with high-resolution maps of seascapes to obtain fine-scale information on fish-habitat linkages at the habitat scale within a single bay.  In addition, we will examine both inter-bay and estuarine-coastal connectivity of juvenile red drum and spotted seatrout by placing receivers throughout all exit/entry points within a large region of the CCB-MANERR complex (Aransas Bay, Corpus Christi Bay, Redfish Bay).  Fundamental data on residency, movement, and habitat connectivity are needed to identify and preserve essential fish habitats and/or seascapes, and results from the proposed research will provide critical information needed by managers to make appropriate decisions concerning the conservation of both species and the habitats or areas they occupy.