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Variation in reproductive potential and influence on Icelandic herring recruitment

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Explaining recruitment variation in fish is essential for successful fishery management and is consequently under constant review, with an increasing focus on how maternal factors, relative to environmental influences, operate at the level of individual female spawners and extend from the spawning stock through to recruitment. We estimate total egg production (E) in Icelandic summer-spawning herring (Clupea harengus) from 1963 through 1999 by using sequential population analyses (SPA) and their estimates of stock biomass and recruitment, various size and maturity metrics, and individual fecundity estimates that rely on total length and the condition of the spawners. Generalized linear models indicate that maternal effects are of significance in explaining SPA-based recruitment-at-age-3 (R). The best model explained 64% of the variation in R and incorporates E constrained to the repeat spawners (40%), the NAO winter index (18%) and ocean temperature (6%). The latter two represent the winter and spring periods subsequent to year-class formation. Recruit spawner contributions to E were of no significance in explaining variation in R despite the fact that they could contribute as much as 55% of E when their contribution to E was consistently underestimated by a factor of ∼ 2, based only on their contribution to spawning stock biomass. We conclude that the spawning potential of the repeat spawners should replace total spawning stock biomass for determining recruitment potential in stock assessment. In addition to the incorporation of oceanographic factors, this would provided a more cautious and risk-adverse approach.

Keywords: condition; egg production; fecundity; herring; management; recruitment; repeat spawners

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 4J1, Canada

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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