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Offshore habitat preference of overwintering juvenile and adult black sea bass, Centropristis striata, and the relationship to year-class success

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Abstract

Black sea bass (Centropristis striata) migrations are believed to play a role in overwinter survival and connectivity between juvenile and adult populations. This study investigated oceanographic drivers of winter habitat choice and regional differences between populations of juvenile and adult black sea bass. Trends in cohort strength, as a result of juvenile survival, were also identified. Oceanographic and fisheries survey data were analyzed using generalized additive models. Among the oceanographic variables investigated, salinity was the main driver in habitat selection with an optimal range of 33-35 practical salinity units (PSU) for both juveniles and adults. Preferred temperature ranges varied between juveniles and adults, but held a similar minimum preference of >8°C. Salinity and temperature ranges also differed by regions north and south of Hudson Canyon. Shelf water volume had less of an effect than temperature or salinity, but showed an overall negative relationship with survey catch. The effect of winter conditions on juvenile abundance was also observed across state and federal survey index trends. A lack of correlation observed among surveys in the fall paired with a strong correlation in the spring identifies the winter period as a factor determining year-class strength of new recruits to the population. A rank order analysis of spring indices identified three of the largest year classes occurring during years with reduced shelf water volumes, warmer winter shelf waters, and a 34 PSU isohaline aligned farther inshore. While greater catches of black sea bass in the northwest Atlantic Ocean remain south of Hudson Canyon, the species' range has expanded north in recent years.

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Miller, A. S., Shepherd, G. R., & Fratantoni, P. S. (2016). Offshore habitat preference of overwintering juvenile and adult black sea bass, Centropristis striata, and the relationship to year-class success. PLoS ONE, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0147627

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