Changes in weight-at-length and size-at-age of mature Northeast Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) from 1984 to 2013: effects of mackerel stock size and herring (Clupea harengus) stock size

Anna H. Olafsdottir, Aril Slotte, Jan Arge Jacobsen, Guðmundur J. Óskarsson, Kjell Rong Utne, Leif Nøttestad

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32 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Weight-at-length and length-/weight-at-age were analysed for mature 3- to 8-year-old Northeast Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus; n= 26 084) collected annually in autumn (September and October) at the end of the annual feeding season during 1984–2013 in the northern North Sea. The age range represented 92% of the mackerel stock size (age 3+). During the most recent decade, mackerel length- and weight-at-age continually declined. In 2013, the average mackerel was 3.7 cm shorter and weighed 175 g less than the average individual in 2002. Individual weight-at-length, demonstrating annual summer feeding success, continually declined during the most recent 5 years, whereas somatic growth of cohorts aged 3–8 continually declined for the last 11 of 25 cohorts investigated. Growth of the latest cohort was 34% of the maximum cohort growth recorded. Both weight-at-length and cohort growth were negatively affected by mackerel stock size and Norwegian spring-spawning herring (Clupea harengus) stock size (weight-at-length: r2 = 0.89; growth (length): r2 = 0.68; growth (weight): r2 = 0.78), while temperature was not significant. Conspecific density-dependence was most likely mediated via intensified competition associated with greater mackerel density. Negative effects of herring were likely mediated by exploitative competition for shared food resources rather than direct competition due to limited spatio-temporal overlap between mackerel and herring during the feeding season. Herring begin their seasonal feeding migration at least a month before mackerel; therefore, herring consumption influences prey availability for the later-arriving mackerel. Record low mackerel growth and negative effects of mackerel and herring stock size suggest that the carrying capacity of the Norwegian Sea and adjacent areas for plankton-feeding fish stocks have been reached. However, compounding effects of a less productive Norwegian Sea during the 30-year period cannot be excluded.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1255-1265
Number of pages11
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Volume73
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords

  • density-dependence
  • lenght-/weight-at-age
  • Northeast Atlantic mackerel
  • Norwegian spring spawning herring
  • Scomber scombrus
  • Weight-at-length

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