Relationship between spatial distribution of the Patagonian stock of Argentine anchovy, Engraulis anchoita, and sea temperatures during late spring to early summer
The relative abundance of adult Argentine anchovies (Engraulis anchoita) and the thermal structure of the sea between 41° and 45°30′S during four research surveys were compared. Acoustic data were collected while making parallel transects along which CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) stations were regularly distributed. Anchovy abundance was related to both the sea surface temperature and the stratification of the water column, as classified according to the φ parameter of stability (Simpson, 1981). Regarding the whole water column, the sea temperatures where adult anchovies were recorded ranged from 8.5 to 16.5°C, but anchovy echo traces from waters above 14°C were obtained mainly at night. The sea surface temperature bounds for anchovy distribution were 11 and 17°C, with a preferential range between 12.5 and 16°C, but no absolute value of sea surface temperature was found to be most favourable for the species. The highest fish abundances were related to sharp thermal gradients, either horizontally recorded in frontal zones (≈ 0.02°C or more per km) or vertically associated to the occurrence of a thermocline (stability > 10 J m–3). Sea fronts seemed to be the axes for the distribution of anchovy shoals, and the annual changes in the positions of the fronts seemed to be followed by analogous changes in the locations of the main anchovy concentrations. Within thermally stratified areas and during the daytime, anchovies apparently preferred the thermocline layer or the layer immediately above that, although a few fish shoals were located below the thermocline.