Spatial-Explicit Growth Rate Model of Young Striped Bass in Albemarle Sound: Implications on Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) Using GIS

Production dynamics of fish may depend on local processes and can be strongly influenced by the physical habitats which they live. These habitats are often patchy which inhibits the use of system-wide models to examine fish production. We examined the growth rate potential of juvenile striped bass in Albemarle Sound , North Carolina , to identify essential fish habitat (EFH) for striped bass during the summer and early-fall months. Growth rate potential integrates a physiological-based model (bioenergetics) of fish growth with the physical environment. We integrated the growth rate potential model with Global Information Systems (GIS) to spatially map the growth rate potential of individual juvenile striped bass in Albemarle Sound . Water temperatures during the modeled period were within the “preferred” range 19 and 27°C, of juvenile striped bass except during June when water temperatures were above 28°C. Dissolved oxygen and salinity levels were at levels suitable for striped bass throughout the modeled period. Mean growth rate (g/g/d) was 0.023 during the modeled period. This model predicts that areas in the north Albemarle Sound, particularly in the Chowan and North rivers, the mouth of the Roanoke River provided physical habitats (based on water temperature) to support high growth rates of striped bass. These areas may be defined as EFH areas. This approach shows the usefulness of integrating two technologies to predict fish production.