National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2012

Underlying causes of habitat-associated differences in size of age-0 walleye pollock (Theragra Chalcogramma) in the Gulf of Alaska

Dougherty, A.B., K.M. Bailey, T.C. Vance, and W. Cheng

Mar. Biol., 159(8), 1733–1744, doi: 10.1007/s00227-012-1961-2 (2012)

Age-0 walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) caught in September in the Gulf of Alaska display habitat-associated differences in standard length (SL). Age-0 fish collected in the region around Sutwik Island and 375 km farther downstream near the Shumagin Islands most likely originate from the Shelikof Strait spawning aggregation. However, age-0 fish resulting from the same spawning aggregation differ in mean size up to 20 mm between areas by September. We examined the otoliths of the larval and age-0 stages of walleye pollock from these two areas in 2000 and 2001 to determine whether growth rate, hatch date, and/or temperature influenced fish size. Circulation models were used to determine whether transport of larvae from an upstream spawning group into the study areas could have occurred. Mean in situ temperature during sampling periods was not defined as a significant factor in altering growth rates. Overlapping hatch date distributions of the larval and age-0 fish in the Shumagin Island area confirmed that the fish were from the Shelikof Strait spawning group. Comparison of hatch date distributions in the upstream Sutwik Island area revealed larger/older larvae from an upstream spawning group mixed with larvae from the Shelikof Strait spawning group. Our results suggest that the offset of 20 mm SL between the groups of age-0 pollock was the result of a combination of enhanced survivorship of early-hatched larvae in the Sutwik area and the introduction and retention of the progeny of another spawning group originating upstream of Shelikof Strait.

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