Sea growth, smolt age and age at sexual maturation in Atlantic salmon

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Relationships between growth at sea, smolt size and age at sexual maturation of Atlantic salmon Salmo salar were tested. The fish were offspring of brood stocks sampled in eight Norwegian rivers at latitudes between 59° and 70° N, hatchery reared and released at smolting at the mouth of the River Imsa (59° N). Smolt size influenced the subsequent growth rate of Atlantic salmon. The larger the fish were at release, the slower the yearly length increment at sea. Mean sea age at sexual maturity, measured as proportion of the returning adults attaining sexual maturity at sea age 2 years, was significantly correlated with mean growth rate during the first year at sea and mean smolt size (r2= 0·74, P < 0·001). Fish attaining maturity at a relatively high sea age were more fast growing during their first year at sea than those maturing at a younger age. The results indicate that high sea age at sexual maturation is a population-specific characteristic and associated with high early growth rate at sea.

Keywords: adult size; age at maturity; heritable variation; population specificity; sea growth; smolt size

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Gaustadalléen 21, N-0349 Oslo, Norway

Publication date: July 1, 2007

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