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MEPS 444:1-13 (2012)  -  DOI:

Anchovy population expansion in the North Sea

Pierre Petitgas1,*, Jürgen Alheit2, Myron A. Peck3, Kristina Raab4, Xabier Irigoien5, Martin Huret1, Jeroen van der Kooij6, Thomas Pohlmann7, Carola Wagner2, Iratxe Zarraonaindia8, Mark Dickey-Collas

1Ifremer, rue de l’Île d’Yeu, 44300 Nantes, France
2Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde, Seestr. 15, 18119 Warnemünde, Rostock, Germany
3Institute of Hydrobiology and Fisheries Science, University of Hamburg, Olbersweg 24, 22767 Hamburg, Germany
4IMARES (Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies), PO Box 68, 1970 AB IJmuiden, The Netherlands
5AZTI-Tecnalia, Herrera kaia z/g, 20110 Pasaia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
6CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science), Pakefield Road, Lowestoft NR33 0HT, UK
7IFM (Institute of Oceanography), University of Hamburg, Bundesstr. 53, 22457 Hamburg, Germany
8University of Basque Country, Bº Sarriena z/g, 48940 Leioa, Bilbao, Spain

ABSTRACT: The abundance and spatial occupation of European anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus have increased in the North Sea since the mid-1990s. We use a cross-disciplinary approach combining genetics, transport modelling, survey time series analyses and physical oceanographic modelling to investigate 3 ­hypotheses on the reasons for this change. Evidence from connectivity studies suggests that the population of North Sea anchovy is separate from that in the Bay of Biscay. The recruitment pulses observed in survey data fit a life cycle which includes spawning in early summer and larval development in late summer. This also supports the concept of population expansion originating from local remnant population(s). In terms of growth physiology, suitable thermal windows have expanded, making conditions more favourable for life cycle closure and population persistence/productivity. In addition to the increased frequency of warm summers, which favour larvae and juvenile growth, the decrease in the number of severe winters is also likely to improve overwinter survival. Overall, the evidence supports the hypothesis that the increase in anchovy abundance originated from the improved productivity of existing populations. This increase was associated with an expansion in thermal habitats and is probably not due to a northward shift in the distribution of southern conspecifics.

KEY WORDS: Climate variability · Small pelagic fish · Regime shift · Temperature · Anchovy · North Sea

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Cite this article as: Petitgas P, Alheit J, Peck MA, Raab K and others (2012) Anchovy population expansion in the North Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 444:1-13.

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