Spatial variations in mortality in pelagic early life stages of a marine fish (Gadus morhua)

Øystein Langangen, Leif C. Stige, Natalia A. Yaragina, Geir Ottersen, Frode B. Vikebø and Nils Chr. Stenseth in Progress in Oceanography

    Øystein LangangenLeif C. Stige, Natalia A. Yaragina, Geir Ottersen, Frode B. Vikebø and Nils Chr. Stenseth


    Mortality of pelagic eggs and larvae of marine fish is often assumed to be constant both in space and time due to lacking information. This may, however, be a gross oversimplification, as early life stages are likely to experience large variations in mortality both in time and space. In this paper we develop a method for estimating the spatial variability in mortality of eggs and larvae. The method relies on survey data and physical–biological particle-drift models to predict the drift of ichthyoplankton. Furthermore, the method was used to estimate the spatially resolved mortality field in the egg and larval stages of Barents Sea cod (Gadus morhua). We analyzed data from the Barents Sea for the period between 1959 and 1993 when there are two surveys available: a spring and a summer survey. An individual-based physical–biological particle-drift model, tailored to the egg and larval stages of Barents Sea cod, was used to predict the drift trajectories from the observed stage-specific distributions in spring to the time of observation in the summer, a drift time of approximately 45 days. We interpreted the spatial patterns in the differences between the predicted and observed abundance distributions in summer as reflecting the spatial patterns in mortality over the drift period. Using the estimated mortality fields, we show that the spatial variations in mortality might have a significant impact on survival to later life stages and we suggest that there may be trade-offs between increased early survival in off shore regions and reduced probability of ending up in the favorable nursing grounds in the Barents Sea. In addition, we show that accounting for the estimated mortality field, improves the correlation between a simulated recruitment index and observation-based indices of juvenile abundance.

    Available online 20 June 2014
    Vol, 127 (2014), pp. 96–107

    Tags: Progress in Oceanography;
    Published Sep. 16, 2014 11:02 AM - Last modified Mar. 5, 2020 12:28 PM