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Released April 14, 2003

SOUTHERN MISS SCIENTISTS TO INFLUENCE FUTURE OF BLUE CRAB

OCEAN SPRINGS -- University of Southern Mississippi scientists at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory have launched a $320,000 research project to answer basic questions about ensuring future blue crab populations in the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay.

Harriet Perry, Dr. Jeffrey Lotz and Dr. Robin Overstreet are investigating the status of disease and the genetic structure of blue crab populations in the gulf as part of a national Blue Crab Advanced Research Consortium. Established through funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce, the consortium is on a mission is to develop - through basic research - new approaches to sustain and increase harvests of blue crabs.

Perry said consortium members on the gulf and on the Atlantic will share new knowledge and technologies, but how they use what they learn will address different problems.

"A major part of our research is developing effective procedures for rearing blue crabs from eggs," Perry said. "The biggest challenge is juvenile grow-out. Once we have met that challenge, we will have a dependable supply of juvenile crabs as test animals for disease studies and experiments on pond stocking and grow-out."

She said the Chesapeake is recruitment limited and research there is focusing on stock enhancement. In the gulf, disease that has the potential to severely impact blue crab population levels is an emerging issue.

Members of the consortium are the GCRL, the University of Maryland Center of Marine Biotechnology, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and North Carolina State University.

Perry is technical director of the crab consortium's GCRL component and director of the Center for Fisheries Research and Development at the laboratory. She has pioneered much of the blue crab research of the northern gulf.

Her colleagues on the project are also at the top of their fields. Lotz, professor in the Southern Miss Department of Coastal Sciences headquartered at GCRL, heads up the laboratory's national marine aquaculture research and development programs. Overstreet, also a professor of coastal sciences, is an international authority on marine parasites and diseases.

"We will be using the tools of modern biology and biotechnology to study and better understand the fundamental processes involved in the blue crab life cycle," Perry said. "That new knowledge will be the foundation for developing, assessing and validating strategies to achieve the consortium's ultimate goal - increasing blue crab harvests."

The laboratory, the Department of Coastal Sciences and the fisheries center are part of the university's College of Marine Sciences.

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February 26, 2004 1:23 PM

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