In search of climate effects on Atlantic Croaker (Micropogonias undulatus) stock off the U.S. Atlantic coast with Bayesian state-space biomass dynamic models


Munyandorero, Joseph
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Atlantic Croaker (Micropogonias undulatus) production dynamics along the U.S. Atlantic coast are regulated by fishing and winter water temperature. Stakeholders for this resource have recommended investigating the effects of climate covariates in assessment models. This study used state-space biomass dynamic models without (model 1) and with (model 2) the minimum winter estuarine temperature (MWET) to examine MWET effects on Atlantic Croaker population dynamics during 1972–2008. In model 2, MWET was introduced into the intrinsic rate of population increase (r). For both models, a prior probability distribution (prior) was constructed for r or a scaling parameter (r0); imputs were the fishery removals, and fall biomass indices developed by using data from the Multispecies Bottom Trawl Survey of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Coastal Trawl Survey of the Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program. Model sensitivity runs incorporated a uniform(0.01,1.5) prior for r or r0 and bycatch data from the shrimp-trawl fishery. All model variants produced similar results and therefore supported the conclusion of low risk of overfishing for the Atlantic Croaker stock in the 2000s. However, the data statistically supported only model 1 and its configuration that included the shrimp-trawl fishery bycatch. The process errors of these models showed slightly positive and significant correlations with MWET, indicating that warmer winters would enhance Atlantic Croaker biomass production. Inconclusive, somewhat conflicting results indicate that biomass dynamic models should not integrate MWET, pending, perhaps, accumulation of longer time series of the variables controlling the production dynamics of Atlantic Croaker, preferably including winter-induced estimates of Atlantic Croaker kills.