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Comparing Fish And Crustacean Species on Harvested Vs. Non-Harvested Oyster Reefs
Mentors: Matthew Ogburn, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center; Allison Tracy, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Oysters support one of the largest and most important fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay. They provide many ecological services such as water filtration, denitrification, and habitat for other species. However, due to issues such as habitat degradation, disease-causing parasites, and over-harvesting, the number of oysters in the bay has significantly decreased. I am interested in seeing how protecting oyster reefs affect other species that live around them, specifically fish and crustaceans. To answer this question, I analyzed GoPro footage of oyster reefs from three tributaries in the Chesapeake Bay: the James, Great Wicomico, and Choptank Rivers. Each tributary had one reef that was actively harvested and a neighboring reef where harvesting was prohibited. I watched each video and recorded the number and type of fish and crustaceans that I saw and tried to identify each to the species level. I found that there was a higher abundance of fish and crustaceans on protected reefs compared to harvested reefs, as well as higher diversity on protected reefs. This study provides evidence that fish and crustacean species benefit from creating no-harvesting areas and highlights the importance of oyster reefs for healthy ecosystems.
This work was funded, in part, by the Chesapeake Research Consortium’s C-StREAM program.
- Aiman Raza | Comparing Fish and Crustacean Species on Harvested Vs. Non-Harvested Oyster Reefs | Mentors: Matthew Ogburn and Allison Tracy | Smithsonian Environmental Research Center