Evaluating Alternative Bait Ingredients for the Channeled Whelk Fishery
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Evaluating Alternative Bait Ingredients for the Channeled Whelk Fishery

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    The channeled whelk (Busycotypus canaliculatus) is a large, predatory marine gastropod that supports an important commercial fishery in the United States. Fishermen catch channeled whelks in baited traps with their own unique blend of ingredients. The predominant bait in these traps is the American horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus. Horseshoe crab blood is used in the biomedical industry to test materials for contamination, meaning that horseshoe crabs are heavily exploited and are an expensive bait ingredient in the channeled whelk fishery. To determine an effective alternative and more sustainable bait that does not require Limulus as the primary ingredient, a series of ingredients were tested as whelk attractants: 1) Limulus polyphemus, 2) ground whole green crabs, 3) clam bits, 4) a mix of Limulus hemolymph, green crab, and gelatin, 5) ground whole green crab pieces with gelatin binder, 6) clam bits with gelatin binder, and 7) Limulus hemolymph with gelatin binder. The amount of time an individual whelk interacted with a bait bag containing one bait type was quantified using output from an accelerometer secured in the bait bag. 64 trials were recorded over a period of 21 hours in seawater tanks inside the UNH Coastal Marine Laboratory during October-November 2020. Together, the baits containing clam had 4.79 times more interaction than any of the other baits, making them a promising alternative to horseshoe crab. This study is the first part of a longer project and will help inform bait decisions as further lab and field tests are conducted.
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