MEPS 238:187-198 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps238187

Diets of walleye pollock Theragra chalcogramma in the Doto area, northern Japan: ontogenetic and seasonal variations

Orio Yamamura1,*, Satoshi Honda1, Osamu Shida2, Tomonori Hamatsu1

1Hokkaido National Fisheries Research Institute, 116 Katsurakoi, Kushiro 085-0802, Japan
2Muroran Branch, Hakodate Fisheries Experiment Station, 1-133 Funami-cho, Muroran 051-0013, Japan

ABSTRACT: Seasonal, ontogenetic and bathymetric variations of diet were examined for walleye pollock Theragra chalcogramma based on a total of 6666 fish collected off the southeastern coast of Hokkaido Island, northern Japan (Doto area) during 1989 to 2000. Walleye pollock depended exclusively (>99%) on pelagic prey and showed a clear ontogenetic dietary shift: smaller fish depended mainly upon mesozooplankton such as Neocalanus cristatus and Euphausia pacifica, and larger fish preyed upon pollock (cannibalism), myctophids Diaphus theta and firefly squid Watasenia scintillans. Seasonal variation was also evident. Smaller pollock depended mainly upon N. cristatus during spring then shifted gradually to E. pacifica during other seasons. For larger pollock, major prey shifted from pollock (cannibalism) during spring to micronekton during other seasons. Bathymetric variation was less pronounced, with cannibalism and Themisto spp. being more important in the shallow area (¾150 m). Feeding intensity, measured as stomach content index, was generally higher during spring and summer than autumn and winter, but showed incidentally high values during winter, suggesting sporadic but intense feeding opportunities. Fish condition fell during winter and then recovered rapidly during May and June. Recovery coincided with superabundance of N. cristatus during blooming, so that this species is essential for the recovery of pollock from wintering and spawning.

KEY WORDS: Theragra chalcogramma · Food habits · Seasonality · Feeding intensity · Condition

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