Long-time Salmon Coaster and University of Alberta PhD student Emma Atinkson is running a project to better understand the population biology of the enigmatic spot prawn in Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw (MD) waters.

Investigating an Understudied Species

Spot prawns live in deep water on the seabed along the Pacific coast. They begin their life as a male before transitioning to female for the final several years of their life. Despite their growing importance to humans as a commercial fishery, many knowledge gaps remain with respect to the unique biology of these sequential hermaphrodites. To tackle these knowledge gaps, Atkinson draws on multiple approaches including population models, field experiments, and data synthesis.

Working with the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw Fisheries Group, Atkinson’s team developed a system to set and haul strings of research traps off their small research vessel, and is conducting biannual surveys of sites throughout MD territory to collect stage and size-structure data from spot prawn populations in the region.

The data collected in these surveys will inform local research questions as well as contribute to a synthesis of data investigating how spot prawn population stage and size-structure vary across the BC coast.

This work aims to address gaps in knowledge about this important species.

Part of the project also involved a field experiment investigating the post-release survival of spot prawns. The spot prawn trap fishery is managed, in part, based on the release of under-sized males and egg-bearing females but how well released prawns survive remains an unanswered question. To address this uncertainty and inform future release-based management measures, the team evaluated survival of prawns released after varying periods of time out of water and across a range of temperatures.

The findings from this experiment will hopefully be used to contribute to future management decisions.

Find out more about our work by checking out our regular reports and related publications

Check out our sea lice reports for each year, which provide detailed information on the year’s monitoring findings.

View our complete list of publications for many more articles based on sea lice research conducted at Salmon Coast.

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