Assessment of Populations with Spatially Explicit Dynamics and the Consequences for Marine Protected Areas

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Spatial processes can have important consequences in the population dynamics of fishes and marine invertebrates. Therefore fisheries management should consider space in the techniques used to understand population dynamics. The purpose of this thesis was to investigate spatial dynamics of fish populations in Maryland's coastal bays (Chapter 2) and evaluate effects of spatial management (in the form of marine protected areas (MPAs)) on accuracy of abundance estimates (Chapter 3). In Chapter 2, I examined trawl survey data from Maryland's coastal bays to estimate trends in relative abundance of four commonly caught fish species using a generalized linear model that allowed region specific estimates. Species showed different responses in the two regions, but trends over time were not related to local habitat variables. In chapter 3, I examined the effects of an MPA on the accuracy and bias of estimates from spatially aggregate and explicit surplus production models (SPMs) using a simulation experiment. I found that spatially-explicit SPMs produced more accurate estimates of biomass than spatially-aggregate SPMs, and that larger MPAs produced more accurate estimates than smaller MPAs.