Effect of climate parameters on mud crab (Scylla serrata) production in Australia

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Meynecke, Olaf
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Copenhagen, Denmark


The speculation that climate change may impact on fish production suggests a need to understand how these effects influence fisheries catch on a broad scale. Mud crabs (Scylla serrata) are a highly valued commercial species and the demand as well as their catch rates have increased continuously over the past decade throughout Australia. Scylla serrata has lifecycles related to rainfall and temperature patterns but a quantification of the link is yet to be undertaken. The difficulty involved in explaining the effect of climate driven parameters arising from limited knowledge the species biology may be overcome by relating climate parameters with long-term catch data for specific regions. Transformed catch per unit effort (CPUE), freshwater flow, air temperature and sea surface temperature and catch time series for specific combinations of time intervals and estuaries have been explored using correlation analysis. Correlation of catches of mud crab catch (Scylla serrata) with rainfall suggests that rainfall and temperature thresholds exists and if exceeded can cause loss of production. This fishery may therefore be sensitive to effects of climate change. The most significant relationships between mud crab catch, rainfall and temperature were detected for South-East Australia with a trend to weaker relationships towards the north. However, catches lagged by 2 years in the tropical north showed a distinct relationship with freshwater flow events which was also supported by meta-analysis. This approach allowed a first evaluation of the consequences of environmental factors on mud crab fisheries, thus highlighting the need to develop further studies and forecast models to provide information for managing this fishery in the face of climate change.

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Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions

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