In the present study, 307 ovaries of eastern Baltic cod Gadus morhua callarias sampled during the prespawning and spawning season 2000 were analysed histologically to estimate the seasonal prevalence and intensity of atresia. The number of atretic oocytes per ovary was estimated using a combination of the physical disector method and volume fraction (Delesse principle). Atretic oocytes were observed in 32% of the ovaries. Prevalence of atresia was independent of female size, but increased significantly with declining female condition from prespawning and through the spawning stages. The relative intensity of atresia, i.e. number of atretic oocytes in relation to normally developed vitellogenic oocytes, was low amounting to 1·4% on average. Similar to prevalence, relative intensity of atresia differed significantly between maturity stages and increased with decreasing female condition. The population egg loss due to atresia amounted to 4·6% indicating that Baltic cod was performing close to maximum productivity, i.e. potential egg production.
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