Could we consider a single stock when spatial sub-units present lasting patterns in growth and asynchrony in cohort densities? A flatfish case study

Abstract : An accurate representation of the spatial structure of marine fish populations is a prerequisite for unbiased stock assessment, to build appropriate management measures. The common sole (Solea solea, L.) of the Eastern English Channel (EEC) is a commercial flatfish species, whose stock is currently assessed as a single homogeneous population and has been overexploited over the last decade. Previous studies have highlighted the stock's low connectivity and the lack of understanding in sub-adults and adults mixing between putative subunits, raising the issue of a potential spatial structure of this stock. Here, we examined evidence of spatial structure by analyzing spatiotemporal patterns of length and density-at-age using time series (1989–2015) obtained from a scientific survey (UK-BTS). We tested for various hypotheses of spatial structure, based on both scientific and expert knowledge, including three isolated subunits, their combination, and no spatial structure. We combined two sets of analyses: (1) a selection of the von Bertalanffy growth model with spatial effects capturing the most accurate spatial structure of the stock and the analysis of long-term spatial patterns (gradients, trends, synchrony) in growth parameters; and (2) an analysis of the synchrony among density-at-age time series between spatial subunits. Growth analysis revealed a spatial structure in three subunits (i.e. the southwestern, northeastern and English parts of the EEC) and an overall decline of length-at-age, suggesting Fishery-Induced Evolution. The synchrony analysis revealed high spatiotemporal integrity at the level of the southwestern subunit of the EEC. Our two analyses thus detected a lasting signal of spatial stock structure with a probable isolation of the southwestern subunit from the rest of the EEC. Future research should build on our study by investigating the connectivity of sole throughout its entire life cycle, to improve stock assessment and fishery management.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, October 2, 2018 - 1:45:30 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, June 4, 2019 - 5:03:37 PM

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Marine Randon, Elodie Réveillac, Etienne Rivot, Hubert Du Pontavice, Olivier Le Pape. Could we consider a single stock when spatial sub-units present lasting patterns in growth and asynchrony in cohort densities? A flatfish case study. Journal of Sea Research, Elsevier, 2018, 142, pp.91 - 100. ⟨10.1016/j.seares.2018.09.012⟩. ⟨hal-01885896⟩

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