Sources of variability in prevalence and distribution of bitter crab disease in snow crab Chionoecetes opilio along the northeast coast of Newfoundland
Mullowney, D.R.; Dawe, E.G.; Morado, J.F.; Cawthorn, R.J.
ICES Journal of Marine Science 68(3): 463-471
ISSN/ISBN: 1054-3139 DOI: 10.1093/icesjms/fsq189
Bitter crab disease (BCD), caused by a parasitic dinoflagellate of the genus Hematodinium, is a source of mortality in Newfoundland and Labrador snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio). Prevalence and distribution patterns have been spatially and temporally variable since the discovery of BCD in 1990, and controlling factors are poorly understood. Data from a long-term trap survey in two bays along the northeast coast of Newfoundland are analysed, investigating the influences and interactions of various biotic and abiotic factors over BCD. Factors examined include host size and density, temperature, salinity, and depth. The density of small to medium-sized snow crabs was directly related to prevalence and distribution of BCD, whereas all other factors had either an indirect or no effect. Further, much of the spatio-temporal variability in disease expression is a function of variability in host productivity, growth, and movement. The study also considers the impacts BCD can exert on the commercial fishery, and the potential for predicting intermediate to long-term recruitment potential based on BCD prevalence levels.