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The North Atlantic subpolar gyre regulates the spawning distribution of blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou)

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The spawning stock of blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou), an economically important pelagic gadoid in the North Atlantic Ocean, increased threefold after 1995. The reproductive success of the stock is largely determined during the very early stages of life, but little is known about the spawning dynamics of this species. Here we show that the spawning distribution of blue whiting is variable, regulated by the hydrography west of the British Isles. When the North Atlantic subpolar gyre is strong and spreads its cold, fresh water masses east over Rockall Plateau, the spawning is constrained along the European continental slope and in a southerly position near Porcupine Bank. When the gyre is weak and conditions are relatively saline and warm, the spawning distribution moves northwards along the slope and especially westwards covering Rockall Plateau. The apparent link between the spawning distribution and the subpolar gyre is the first step towards understanding the reproduction variability, which currently is the main challenge for appropriate management of the blue whiting stock.

Le stock reproducteur du poutassou (Micromesistius poutassou), un gadoïde pélagique d’importance économique du nord de l’Atlantique, a augmenté d’un facteur de trois après 1995. Le succès reproductif du stock est en grande partie déterminé durant les tout premiers stades de la vie, mais la dynamique de la fraie de l’espèce reste peu connue. Nous montrons ici que la répartition de la fraie du poutassou est variable et déterminée par l’hydrographie à l’ouest des Îles Britanniques. Lorsque le tourbillon subpolaire de l’Atlantique nord est puissant et répand ses masses d’eau froide et douce sur le plateau de Rockall, la fraie est confinée à la pente continentale européenne et à une région australe près du banc de Porcupine. Lorsque le tourbillon est faible et les conditions relativement salines et chaudes, la répartition de la fraie de déplace vers le nord le long de la pente et surtout vers l’ouest pour couvrir le plateau de Rockall. Le lien apparent entre la répartition de la fraie et le tourbillon subpolaire est un premier élément pour comprendre la variabilité de la reproduction, qui est actuellement l’obstacle principal pour la gestion appropriée du stock de poutassous.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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