Discovery, evaluation, and implications of blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, spawning, hatching, and foraging grounds in federal (US) waters offshore of Louisiana

  • Gelpi C
  • Condrey R
  • Fleeger J
 et al. 
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Although blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus Rathbun, 1896, are ecologically
important predators and support the world's most valuable crab fishery,
little is known about their spawning and hatching migrations beyond the
estuary. We discovered unexpectedly high concentrations of female blue
crabs actively spawning, hatching their eggs, and foraging in federal
waters within our study area, the Ship, Trinity, Tiger Shoal Complex
(STTSC) >= 20 km off the Louisiana coast. During a three-year
investigation, blue crab abundances were significantly higher on Ship
and Trinity Shoals than the surrounding, muddy and deeper seafloor.
Crabs from the STTSC compared favorably with those from nationally
recognized spawning grounds in terms of condition factor (an index of
health), fecundity, and abundance. Ninety percent of females possessed a
sponge, large ovary, or both. Eighty-seven percent of non-ovigerous
females showed evidence of a previous hatching. An analysis of ovarian
development suggests that STTSC crabs produce new sponges approximately
every 21 d, and at least seven broods per spawning season (similar to
April-October). Monthly declines in sponge weight and a companion study
of benthic macrofauna suggest fecundity may be limited by food supply in
areas of high crab abundance. Symbionts did not negatively impact
condition factor. Carapace width including the lateral spines was a much
poorer estimator of crab weight than carapace width excluding the
lateral spines, height, length, or estimated volume. Given the
increasing national importance of the Louisiana blue crab fishery and
declines elsewhere, we recommend that management safeguard these
previously unknown spawning, hatching, and foraging grounds.

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  • ISSN: 00074977
  • SCOPUS: 2-s2.0-73349094372
  • PUI: 358042978
  • SGR: 73349094372


  • Carey G. Gelpi

  • Richard E. Condrey

  • John W. Fleeger

  • Stanislas F. Dubois

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