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Spatial subdivision among assemblages of Spanish mackerel, Scomberomorus commerson (Pisces: Scombridae) across northern Australia: implications for fisheries management

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This study investigated the use of stable δ13C and δ18O isotopes in the sagittal otolith carbonate of narrow-barred Spanish mackerel, Scomberomorus commerson, as indicators of population structure across Australia. Location 

Samples were collected from 25 locations extending from the lower west coast of Western Australia (30°), across northern Australian waters, and to the east coast of Australia (18°) covering a coastline length of approximately 9500 km, including samples from Indonesia. Methods 

The stable δ13C and δ18O isotopes in the sagittal otolith carbonate of S. commerson were analysed using standard mass spectrometric techniques. The isotope ratios across northern Australian subregions were subjected to an agglomerative hierarchical cluster analysis to define subregions. Isotope ratios within each of the subregions were compared to assess population structure across Australia. Results 

Cluster analysis separated samples into four subregions: central Western Australia, north Western Australia, northern Australia and the Gulf of Carpentaria and eastern Australia. Isotope signatures for fish from a number of sampling sites from across Australia and Indonesia were significantly different, indicating population separation. No significant differences were found in otolith isotope ratios between sampling times (no temporal variation). Main conclusions 

Significant differences in the isotopic signatures of S. commerson demonstrate that there is unlikely to be any substantial movement of fish among these spatially discrete adult assemblages. The lack of temporal variation among otolith isotope ratios indicates that S. commerson populations do not undergo longshore spatial shifts in distribution during their life history. The temporal persistence of spatially explicit stable isotopic signatures indicates that, at these spatial scales, the population units sampled comprise functionally distinct management units or separate ‘stocks’ for many of the purposes of fisheries management. The spatial subdivision evident among populations of S. commerson across northern and western Australia indicates that it may be advantageous to consider S. commerson population dynamics and fisheries management from a metapopulation perspective (at least at the regional level).

Keywords: Australia; carbon; fisheries management; metapopulation structure; otoliths; oxygen; stable isotopes; stock structure

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Western Australian Fisheries and Marine Research Laboratories, Department of Fisheries, Government of Western Australia, PO Box 20, North Beach, Western Australia 6920, Australia, 2: Department of Primary Industry, Fisheries and Mines, GPO Box 3000, Darwin, Northern Territory 0801, Australia, 3: CSIRO Land and Water, Private Bag no. 5, PO Wembley, Perth, Western Australia 6913, Australia, 4: Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Floor 6, North Tower, Queensland Biosciences Precinct, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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