Establishing a monitoring program for Narragansett Bay blue crabs

Principal Investigator: Katie Rodrigue (RI DEM), Austin Humphries (URI CELS/GSO)

Collaborators: Conor McManus (RI DEM), Scott Olszewski (RI DEM), Chris Parkins (RI DEM), Patrick Brown (RI DEM), Sean Fitzgerald (RI DEM)

Funding Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife State Wildlife Grant

Through a collaboration between the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Marine Fisheries and the University of Rhode Island, this project team aims to characterize the blue crab population in Narragansett Bay ahead of a potential emerging fishery. Although the blue crab is listed as a Rhode Island Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the 2015 Wildlife Action Plan, no assessment of the population in Rhode Island has yet been conducted. Research in Chesapeake Bay suggests that with milder winters brought on by climate change, their natural mortality may decrease, thus leading to increases in their populations. By implementing Rhode Island’s first ever winter blue crab dredge survey, this project will use catch data of dormant crabs to estimate their abundance and distribution in the bay. Data analysis may include, but is not limited to: creating size-based catch curves for determining mortality rate (and testing over-wintering survival hypotheses), using geospatial methods to determine how their abundance and distribution corresponds to environmental conditions, describing the sex ratio of the population to inform estimates of the spawning stock biomass, and describing the size composition to understand survey selectivity, seasonal growth or movement patterns, recruitment, and how current size limits relate to the population size structure.