Aspiring to an Altered Stable State: Rebuilding of Bay Scallop Populations and Fisheries Following Intensive Restoration

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Marine Ecology Progress Series






Intensive efforts to restore bay scallop Argopecten irradians irradians populations and fisheries in the Peconic Bays of eastern Long Island, New York, USA, were begun in 2006, following a 12 yr period during which commercial fishery landings averaged 1 to 2% of historical levels seen prior to 1985 to 1995 brown tide algal blooms. Compared to 2005 to 2006, natural population densities of 0+ yr scallops in fall increased 16× by 2007 in Orient Harbor (OH), the focus of our restoration efforts; by 2009, densities in OH and other, unplanted, embayments had increased by 110× and up to 331×, respectively. Spatial and temporal patterns paralleled those documented for larval recruitment; highly significant correlations between commercial harvest levels and both baywide larval settlement and juvenile benthic densities were revealed. Official fishery landings were 13× those of pre-restoration levels by 2010 and have remained relatively stable through 2013. Following commencement of restoration, dockside revenues and economic benefit to the regional economy have increased by ~US$2 million and $20 million, respectively; our calculations suggest that these figures are 40% of actual numbers. Population resurgence is not correlated to temporal changes in predator populations or submerged aquatic vegetation cover. We conclude that rebuilding of Peconic bay scallop populations and fisheries has been driven by dramatic increases in bay scallop larval supply emanating from our intensive restoration efforts. By definition, we cannot say that Peconic bay scallops have attained an alternate stable state, but it is clear that dramatic increases in populations, fishery landings, and economic value are possible in just a few years.