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Variability in maturity and growth in a heavily exploited stock: whiting (Merlangius merlangus L.) in the Irish Sea
Gerritsen, H.D.; Armstrong, M.J.; Allen, M.; McCurdy, W.J.; Peel, J.A.D. (2003). Variability in maturity and growth in a heavily exploited stock: whiting (Merlangius merlangus L.) in the Irish Sea. J. Sea Res. 49(1): 69-82
In: Journal of Sea Research. Elsevier/Netherlands Institute for Sea Research: Amsterdam; Den Burg. ISSN 1385-1101, more
Peer reviewed article  

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    Gadoid fisheries; Growth; Sexual maturity; Merlangius merlangus (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]; Merlangius merlangus (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]; ANE, Irish Sea [Marine Regions]; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Gerritsen, H.D., correspondent
  • Armstrong, M.J.
  • Allen, M.
  • McCurdy, W.J.
  • Peel, J.A.D.

    This paper examines the relationships between maturity, length and age of whiting sampled on a length-stratified basis from groundfish surveys of the Irish Sea during spawning in spring 1992-2001. Maturity, defined by the triggering of vitellogenesis or milt production, was a function of both length and age. Proportions of mature individuals in 1-year-old males increased successively from almost zero in length classes below 15 cm to around 0.9 at 25 cm, whilst almost all 2-year-old males were mature from their smallest length of around 19 cm. Maturity in females was more strongly linked to age than to length. Most 1-year-old females were immature, the proportion of mature individuals not exceeding 0.3 in any length class. Most 2-year-old females were mature and immature fish were found in the smallest length classes only (20-25 cm). Almost all 3-year-olds of both sexes were mature in all length classes. Proportions of mature individuals in 1-year-olds increased substantially after 1997, particularly in males. Significant positive cross-correlation between proportion mature and mean length was found for 1-year-olds of both sexes. Length at 50% maturity (L50) averaged around 19 cm in males and 22 cm in females. Variability in L50 was negatively cross-correlated with average sea surface temperature in the preceding year. There is no evidence for substantial changes in maturity of whiting since the 1950s, despite an order-of-magnitude reduction in biomass caused by high fishing mortality. Concomitant decreases in mean length-at-age and weight-at-age in recent decades indicate that conditions may have been unfavourable for compensatory changes in maturation.

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