The impact of shrimp trawling and associated sediment resuspension in mud dominated, shallow estuaries
To address the relative importance of shrimp trawling on seabed resuspension and bottom characteristics in shallow estuaries, a series of disturbance and monitoring experiments were conducted at a bay bottom mud site (2.5m depth) in Galveston Bay, Texas in July 1998 and May 1999. Based on pre- and post-trawl sediment profiles of super(7)Be; pore water dissolved oxygen and sulfide concentration; and bulk sediment properties, it was estimated that the trawl rig, including the net, trawl doors, and ''tickler chain,'' excavate the seabed to a maximum depth of approximately 1.5cm, with most areas displaying considerably less disturbance. Water column profile data in the turbid plume left by the trawl in these underconsolidated muds (85-90% porosity; <0.25kPa undrained shear strength) demonstrate that suspended sediment inventories of up to 85-90mg -cm super(2) are produced immediately behind the trawl net; an order of magnitude higher than pre-trawl inventories and comparable to those observed during a 9-10m/s wind event at the study site. Plume settling and dispersion caused suspended sediment inventories to return to pre-trawl values about 14min after trawl passage in two separate experiments, indicating particles re-settle primarily as flocs before they can be widely dispersed by local currents. As a result of the passage of the trawl rig across the seabed, shear strength of the sediment surface showed no significant increase, suggesting that bed armoring is not taking place and the trawled areas will not show an increase in critical shear stress.