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Fisheries Behavioral Ecology - Abstracts

Stoner, A.W. 2009. Prediction of discard mortality for Alaskan crabs after exposure to freezing temperatures, based on a reflex impairment index. Fish. Bull. 107:451-463.


Millions of crabs are sorted and discarded in freezing conditions each year in Alaskan fisheries for Tanner crab (Chionoecetes bairdi) and snow crab (C. opilio). However, cold exposures vary widely over the fishing season and among different vessels, and mortalities are difficult to estimate. A shipboard experiment was conducted to determine whether simple behavioral observations can be used to evaluate crab condition after low-temperature exposures. Crabs were systematically subjected to cold in seven different exposure treatments. They were then tested for righting behavior and six different reflex actions and held to monitor mortality. Crabs lost limbs, showed ref lex impairment, and died in direct proportion to increases in cold exposure. Righting behavior was a poor predictor of mortality, whereas reflex impairment (scored as the sum of reflex actions that were lost) was an excellent predictor. This composite index could be measured quickly and easily in hand, and logistic regression revealed that the relationship between ref lex impairment and mortality correctly predicted 80.0% of the mortality and survival for C. bairdi, and 79.4% for C. opilio. These relationships provide substantial improvements over earlier approaches to mortality estimation and were independent of crab size and exposure temperature.



Last updated 11 January, 2011

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