The emerging Kellet's Whelk fishery

One project I've been pursuing is trying to understand potential impacts of the emerging Kellet's whelk fishery in California and using the system to explore the potential for spatial management of fisheries. 

 Kellet’s whelk (Kelletia kelletii) is a common species of carnivorous snail found in the eastern Pacific Ocean from Monterey to Baja, California.  It's normally found in kelp beds and on nearshore reefs. Kellet’s whelk prey on important grazers of algae and kelp, such as snails, and their feeding activity has been identified as an important factor in regulating the abundance of multiple species. 

Kellet’s whelks are also the basis for a burgeoning fishing industry. Fishermen are catching them as bycatch from their lobster and crab traps, meaning they didn't intend to catch the whelks.  However, once they are caught they can be sold in farmers markets and fish markets.  

In order to better understand the demographics of the fishery (meaning the number taken, size and sex of the whelks, and other factors), we are working with local fishermen and farmer’s markets in three regions (Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego) to conduct bimonthly surveys that will provide information on the current state of the fishery and how harvesting relates to and impacts natural population dynamics. Data may offer insight on better harvesting strategies, such as avoiding reproductive seasons or focusing harvesting pressure during times when the proportion of consumable mass is the highest. 

Click here for a blog post on dissecting whelks!