In the Australian spanner crab (Ranina ranina) fishery, management and industry are looking for improvements to the existing indicators of stock abundance. Prior research linked several oceanographic indices to the catchability of spanner crabs; however, it was unclear whether nearshore (e.g. river-runoff) or region-specific oceanographic features (e.g. eddies and the East Australian Current) are responsible for these effects on catch rates. Using satellite remote sensing and fishery-independent survey data, we analysed the influence of oceanographic and environmental indices on spanner crab catch rates in southern Queensland. Outputs from Generalised Additive Models (GAM) show that catch rates exhibit a large amount of variability between different regions of the fishery, with highest catch rates at fishing grounds within 40 km from the shelf break. Offshore oceanic waters, transported into various regions by different oceanographic processes, were linked to an increase in catch rates. Lower concentrations of surface chlorophyll a were also correlated with higher catch rates, but only in survey regions exposed to the effects of the Fraser Gyre and at the mouth of bays. Overall, results highlighted that the effects of environmental indices on catch rates were not homogeneous across the fishery. Rather, relationships were linked to region-specific (<100 km), highly dynamic coastal and oceanographic features that dominate different survey regions. Outcomes from this work show that the spatial variability of oceanographic features should be taken into consideration before incorporating oceanographic indices in fishery stock assessment models.
Spencer, D. M., Doubell, M. J., Brown, I. W., Redondo Rodriguez, A., Lee, S. Y., & Lemckert, C. J. (2019). Environmental indices for spanner crab (Ranina ranina) catch rates depend on regional oceanographic features. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 228. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2019.106361