Developing a Climate Change-Tolerant Urchin Fishery

Start/End: February, 2015 to July, 2016

Echinoderms are important benthic fauna ecologically, and California’s Strongylocentrotus franciscanus (red urchin) and S. purpuratus (purple urchin), are important commercial exports for distributors in the Southern California Bight, prized for their roe. However, laboratory experiments suggest that low pH (simulating future ocean acidification) can have a negative effect on fertilization, larval development, and gene expression for these species, whereas a different species, S. fragilis (pink urchin), is abundant in deep-margin, soft-bottom environments characterized by low oxygen and low pH. In light of ocean acidification, this project seeks to determine the suitability of S. fragilis as a future fishery species. For wild populations of S. fragilis in the Southern CA Bight, the researchers will model population spatial distribution and estimate density; evaluate morphological and gonadal traits across abiotic gradients; characterize seasonal patterns for gonad index; and determine if gonad traits of S. fragilis match current industry standards for S. franciscanus and S. purpuratus. Results will be used to advise future consideration and management of an S. fragilis fishery.

  • University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography