Density vs. disease: Crustaceans in a temperate marine protected area

Charlotte Eve Davies1, Andrew Frederick Johnson2, Emma C Wootton1, Spencer Greenwood3, K Fraser Clark3, Claire L Vogan4 and Andrew F Rowley1, (1)Swansea University, Department of Biosciences, Swansea, United Kingdom, (2)Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Marine Biology Research Division, La Jolla, CA, United States, (3)University of Prince Edward Island, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Charlottetown, PE, Canada, (4)Swansea University, College of Medcine, Swansea, United Kingdom
Since the move towards an ecosystem-based approach in fisheries management, marine protected areas (MPAs) have become increasingly popular. Implementation, however, is somewhat contentious and as a result of their short history, effects are still widely unknown and understudied. Here, we investigated the health of brown crab Cancer pagurus and European lobster Homarus gammarus populations in the Lundy Island MPA after 7 years of no-take protection. Population parameters (size, sex, abundance), disease (shell disease, Hematodinium spp., gaffkaemia) and injury presence (a known precursor to disease) were assessed over two years in both an un-fished no-take zone (NTZ) and a fished refuge zone (RZ). There was a higher lobster density and larger lobsters in the NTZ compared with the RZ, but an opposite trend for crabs. The probability of shell disease increased notably in lobsters over the minimum landing size (MLS), in those displaying injury, and in males. Injury presence was higher in lobsters in the NTZ compared with the RZ and in those above the MLS. Gaffkaemia was detected in <1% of lobsters. The number of injured crabs increased significantly over the two years surveyed (12%), as did the prevalence of shell disease (15%). The probability of shell disease increased significantly for male crabs and for those missing limbs. Crabs below the MLS had an increased probability of being injured. Overall, the study demonstrates both positive and potentially negative effects of long-term NTZs. Recovering populations in NTZs may be more susceptible to disease as a result of increased injury through density-dependent interaction. This in turn may lead to increased disease infection. The findings highlight the necessity for long-term MPA management to include monitoring of population abundance, as well as secondary community change effects such as disease increase, both before and after implementation.