Evaluating the promise and pitfalls of a potential climate change–tolerant sea urchin fishery in southern California

Marine fishery stakeholders are beginning to consider and implement adaptation strategies in the face of growing consumer demand and potential deleterious climate change impacts such as ocean warming, ocean acidification, and deoxygenation. This study investigates the potential for development of a novel climate changetolerant sea urchin fishery in southern California based on Strongylocentrotus fragilis (pink sea urchin), a deep-sea species whose peak density was found to coincide with a current trap-based spot prawn fishery (Pandalus platyceros) in the 200–300-m depth range. Here we outline potential criteria for a climate changetolerant fishery by examining the distribution, life-history attributes, and marketable qualities of S. fragilis in southern California. We provide evidence of seasonality of gonad production and demonstrate that peak gonad production occurs in the winter season. S. fragilis likely spawns in the spring season as evidenced by consistent minimum gonad indices in the spring/summer seasons across 4 years of sampling (2012–2016). The resiliency of S. fragilis to predicted future increases in acidity and decreases in oxygen was supported by high species abundance, albeit reduced relative growth rate estimates at water depths (485–510 m) subject to low oxygen (11.7–16.9 µmol kg−1) and pHTotal (<7.44), which may provide assurances to stakeholders and managers regarding the suitability of this species for commercial exploitation. Some food quality properties of the S. fragilis roe (e.g. colour, texture) were comparable with those of the commercially exploited shallow-water red sea urchin (Mesocentrotus franciscanus), while other qualities (e.g. 80% reduced gonad size by weight) limit the potential future marketability of S. fragilis. This case study highlights the potential future challenges and drawbacks of climate-tolerant fishery development in an attempt to inform future urchin fishery stakeholders.

Sato K. N., Powell J., Rudie D. & Levin L. A., 2017. Evaluating the promise and pitfalls of a potential climate change–tolerant sea urchin fishery in southern California. ICES Journal of Marine Science fsx225. doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsx225. Article (subscription required).

 

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