Distributions of settlers suggest greater dispersal and mixing of Ostrea chilensis larvae in Foveaux Strait, New Zealand
The Foveaux Strait oyster (Ostrea chilensis) fishery in southern New Zealand comprises many localised populations (oyster beds) that have survived disease mortality and 150 years of fishing. The reproductive biology of O. chilensis underlies the assumption that these populations are self-recruiting. A three-year study using passive, artificial collectors deployed in a gradient design around an isolated natal population investigated the hypothesis of self-recruitment. Spat settlement patterns measured the distributions of competent larvae as indicators of dispersal. This research also investigated the relationship between settler and brooder densities. Settler densities were not predicted by direction along or across the current, distance from the focal population, or by brooder densities. Settlement was widespread, and settlement patterns imply greater dispersal and larval mixing than previously reported. The swift currents and variable pelagic larval duration may enhance mixing and connectivity between populations. Demographically open recruitment should provide some resilience to disease mortality and fishing.