, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 59-71

Patterns of estuarine use by juvenile English sole (Parophrys vetulus) and Dungeness crab (Cancer magister)

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Abstract

Extensive trawl surveys were conducted in two large estuaries (Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay) on the Washington coast during 1983–1987, and in adjacent areas of the open coast. These surveys have shown that both English sole and Dungeness crab rely heavily on these estuaries as nursery areas, although the pattern of utilization differs substantially. Juvenile migration patterns can show substantial interannual variability and can only be delineated by concurrent surveys in both coastal and estuarine areas, conducted over a period of several years. English sole eggs and Dungeness crab larvae are released in coastal waters. Larvae of both species transform to the benthic stage in both coastal and estuarine areas, but most English sole eventually migrate into the estuaries during the first year of life, even if initial settlement is along the open coast. By the time English sole have attained a length of 55 mm (TL), most of them are found in estuaries. English sole begin emigrating from the estuaries at about 75 mm, and few remain there during the second year of life. In contrast, Dungeness crab appear to remain in the area of initial settlement throughout the first year of life. Growth is substantially faster in estuaries where 0+ crab reach a mean size of about 40 mm carapace width (CW) by September, with those off the coast are only about 14 mm CW. Juveniles remain in the area of settlement over their first winter but, in contrast to English sole, most coastal 1+ crab immigrate to estuaries to join siblings that settled there the previous year. By September of the second year, crab at about 100 mm CW emigrate to the open coast where they reach maturity. Advantages to juvenile stages that reside in estuaries are discussed in terms of accelerated growth at higher temperatures and potentially greater food supplies than found nearshore along the coast.

Contribution No. 788, School of Fisheries, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA