DAO 28:191-199 (1997)  -  doi:10.3354/dao028191

An Ichthyophonus hoferi epizootic in herring in the North Sea, the Skagerrak, the Kattegat and the Baltic Sea

Mellergaard S, Spanggaard B

An epizootic caused by the internal parasite Ichthyophonus hoferi in herring Clupea harengus was recorded from 1991 to 1993 in the waters around Denmark. A surveillance programme from research vessels and commercial fishing boats was conducted in the North Sea, Skagerrak, Kattegat and Baltic Sea. A total of 15769 hearts of adult herring were examined macroscopically for evidence of infection. The prevalence of the infection in this period decreased from 10.6 to 2.0% in the North Sea, from 8.0 to 5.6% in the Skagerrak, from 12.0 to 1.1% in the Kattegat and from 4.5 to 0.4% in the Baltic Sea. Prevalence rates in research vessel catches were significantly higher (by 1.8 times) than in commercial fishing boat catches. The results show a high degree of temporal and spatial variation of the prevalence of I. hoferi. Infected fish were found to be significantly longer than unaffected fish in the North Sea and the Skagerrak. The majority of the infected fish belonged to the age groups 2+, 3+ and 4+ except in the commercial catches from the North Sea where most of the affected fish belonged to the age groups 5+, 6+ and 7+. Annual mortality in the different areas, based on the observed prevalences was roughly estimated at 12.8 to 36% in 1991, decreasing to a few percent in 1993. The spawning stock biomass of North Sea herring was reduced by 50% during the period 1990 to 1995. This reduction may have been due to a combination of increased fishing intensity and the general effect of the I. hoferi epizootic.


Ichthyophonus hoferi · Epizootic · Herring · North Sea · Skagerrak · Kattegat · Baltic Sea


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