We randomly sampled the landings of oyster boats fishing on the New Jersey oyster beds of Delaware Bay during the 2004 fishing season (April to mid November) to determine (a) the viability of a simple conversion between the numbers-based stock assessment and the bushel-based quota-setting process and (b) the degree to which undersized oysters are taken during the fishing process because of imperfect culling. Rarely were more than 3% of the chosen (unattached) animals less than 2.5″ in length: fisherman choice is a knife-edge process. Most smaller oysters were attached to chosen oysters. Incidental catch caused by imperfect culling contributed 9.9% to fishing mortality. Season influenced landings size frequency more than did bed of harvest. Oysters chosen for market were larger in the Fall; consequently the number per bushel was lower in the Fall. Attached oysters were more numerous in the Fall, so that the total number of oysters per bushel did not differ significantly over the year. Trends in the uniformity of sizes harvested were dominantly related to within-bed variations in size frequency. Trends in the average size of oysters harvested were partly determined by fisherman choice. For the purposes of management, a single average conversion is adequate: 272 oysters per bushel. Regulations furthering an increase in culling efficiency are unnecessary.
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Vol. 24 • No. 2