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Individual-level and Population-level Historical Prey Demand of San Francisco Estuary Striped Bass Using a Bioenergetics Model


Striped bass are both a major predator of native fishes and support a recreational fishery in the San Francisco Estuary (the estuary). Quantifying their demands on their prey is important for understanding long-term trends of fish in the estuary. In this study, we: (i) applied a bioenergetics model of sub-adult (age 1 and age 2) and adult (age 3+) striped bass (Morone saxatilis) to quantify long-term consumption patterns from 1969 through 2004 in the estuary; (ii) developed a method to estimate the abundances of sub-adult striped bass; (iii) evaluated how consumption varied by age and gender; and (iv) identified factors that affect the resulting consumption estimates. On a ‘per capita’ basis, modeled individual prey fish consumption increased after 1990, and individual total and prey fish consumption by age-2 striped bass increased after 1994. Conversely, individual total and prey fish consumption by adult striped bass decreased over the period analyzed. This decline in individual consumption over the study period was related to a decline in mean length at age of adults. As expected, long-term trends in population consumption (total and prey fish) by all ages of striped bass (ages 1 through 6) closely followed their respective population- abundance trends. Population total consumption and prey fish-specific consumption by sub-adult striped bass was found to be similar to the population consumption by adult striped bass, largely because of the high abundance of sub-adults. Unlike adult striped bass that may emigrate and forage in the Pacific Ocean, the majority of sub-adult striped bass reside within the estuary; hence, consumption by the relatively abundant sub-adult population may have significant effects upon their estuarine prey species.

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