TEMPORAL DISTRIBUTION OF MORONE SAXATILIS EGGS AND LARVAE AND NEOMYSIS AMERICANA IN THE SHUBENACADIE ESTUARY
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In the Maritimes, only two striped bass spawning populations remain: the Miramichi River in New Brunswick and the Shubenacadie – Stewiacke system in Nova Scotia. The Shubenacadie – Stewiacke system is subjected to a well pronounced twice daily tidal bore which induces dramatic changes in water parameters and challenges pelagic life. This system will be subject to potential change through brine discharge, a by-product of the Alton Natural Gas Storage Project. . Examining the temporal distribution of mysids, striped bass eggs and larvae at a fixed location around the Alton Project site will provide baseline information on population structure and insights into how egg and larvae distributions change with respect to tidal cycles, temperature and salinity. Surface plankton net tows from the top 0.75m of the water column were used to collect mysids, striped bass eggs and larvae over 14 months over two years. Daily mean egg abundance surpassed 1000 eggs/m3 once in 2008. A decrease of 1.9 °C in water temperature at the Alton Project site coincided with a cessation of eggs, and presumably, spawning. Spawning resumed when temperatures surpassed 15 °C. In contrast, the largest spawning event of the 2009 season occurred as water temperatures decreased (14 to 12.7 °C). The 2009 spawning season was longer (49 days) than 2008 (31 days) by 18 days, and in both years spawning peaked within the last week of May and first week of June. Two large spawning events, over 4000 daily mean eggs/m3 apiece, were detected May 24 and June 2, 2009. Mysids were present in high numbers throughout May to November, with some tows greater than 14,000 individuals/m3 in June 2008 and August 2009. Over the length of the ebb tide, as salinity decreases, mysid abundance also decreased. Whereas, striped bass egg abundance was consistently lowest at high tide and increased progressively over about 300 minutes through the ebb tide. Both striped bass larvae and mysids displayed patchiness in their temporal distribution suggesting passive transport in the this system. In both 2008 and 2009, larvae were detected at the Alton Project site for 38 days. The colder temperatures and larger tidal range of 2009, coupled with large increase in rainfall during the larval season contributed to the over 30-fold lower abundance over that found in 2008. When abundance was related in concert with temperature and salinity, mysids were ever present at high abundances except on three occasions. Mysid abundance decreased when salinity dropped beneath 5 ‰ during both years, and in 2008 when temperatures were lower than 15 °C. Salinity was impacted according to a seven-day lag after rainfall in both years, although the minimum volume of rainfall and associated impact on salinity have yet to be described.