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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 412:1-10 (2010)  -  DOI:

Otolith biochronology reveals factors underlying dynamics in marine fish larvae

Kung-Sik Chan1,*, Tianyang Zhang1, Kevin M. Bailey2

1Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, University of Iowa, 263 Schaeffer Hall, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA
2Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, Washington 98115, USA

ABSTRACT: Study of the dynamics in marine fish larvae is notoriously difficult, given their minute size in a vast, complex and variable marine environment. We demonstrate a novel statistical approach, utilizing a panel of 19 annual hatchdate distributions, to unravel environmental and potential harvesting effects on the spawning, hatching and survival processes for walleye pollock in the Gulf of Alaska. Hatchdates are determined from counting daily increments on otoliths of larvae. The hatchdate frequency distribution determined from sampling a population of larvae depends on factors influencing birth and death processes, i.e. spawning times and survival rates. Using a nonlinear and partly parametric statistical model, temperature, strong winds, and the age frequency of spawning adults were found to strongly influence hatchdates. Moreover, the interaction of both a climate regime shift and the ‘Exxon Valdez’ oil spill in 1989 suppressed pollock larval abundance in 1989, with geometrically diminishing after-effects lasting until around 1992. The novel method presented here provides a general framework for unlocking the rich information hidden in hatchdate data about environmental and/or intervention effects on dynamics in marine fishes.

KEY WORDS: Environmental factors · Hatchdate distribution · Interventions · Partly parametric nonlinear regression · Walleye pollock · Recruitment

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Cite this article as: Chan KS, Zhang T, Bailey KM (2010) Otolith biochronology reveals factors underlying dynamics in marine fish larvae. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 412:1-10.

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