Two researchers at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah have offered an explanation for the recent decline in Georgias blue crab population that has devastated one of the states most important coastal fisheries.
In an article in the November/December issue of the American Scientist, Richard F. Lee and Marc E. Frischer, working on a grant from the Georgia Sea Grant Program at the University of Georgia, say their research shows that Georgias recent drought, working in conjunction with an opportunistic parasite, is ultimately to blame for the decline in blue crab numbers.
Prior to the recent drought, the 45-year average for blue crab landings in the state was 8.6 million pounds per year, but at the height of the drought landings fell to 1.8 million pounds. This sharp and sustained reduction in yearly catch drove most of the states blue crab fishermen out of business and many into bankruptcy. Lee and Frischer discovered that many of the crabs caught during the drought seemed to be suffering from a parasitic infection. The infection was determined to be Hermatodinium perezi. Though crabs infected with Hermatodinium were not unknown to the Georgia coast, Lee and Frischer set out to determine why the parasite crashed the local population so suddenly.
Kim Carlyle | EurekAlert!
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