The stock structure of small pelagic fishes is difficult to determine due to their patchy distribution and complex movement patterns. We integrate genetic, morphological, otolith, growth, reproductive and fishery data collected over 60 years using a Stock Differentiation Index (SDI). The absence of strong separation (SDI > 0.66) of most adjacent sub-groups supports the hypothesis that sardine (Sardinops sagax) in Australian waters is a meta-population, but with effective isolation of at least four stocks: south western coast (off Western Australia); Great Australian Bight and Spencer Gulf; Bass Strait and Port Phillip Bay (off Victoria and Tasmania); and eastern Australia. There is also evidence for sub-division of the stocks off Western Australia and the east coast. We examine age-related and inter-annual patterns of stock structure off South Australia and the east coast through integrated analysis of otolith chemistry and shape data. For the east coast, there were significant differences between northern and southern sub-groups for all three age cohorts examined. Fish were correctly classified to sampling region with a high degree of success (>80%), supporting the sub-division of the east coast stock suggested by the SDI. For South Australia, there were significant differences among two sub-groups for most cohorts examined across two sampling years. However, spatial discriminatory power was poor, with allocation success ranging from 48 to 64%. Results suggest that movements between the two South Australian sub-groups may vary among years, which is consistent with inconclusive SDI (0.5). Integrating historical data using a SDI is suitable for identifying fishery management units. Integrated analysis of otoliths from archival collections is useful for examining temporal variability in stock structure, which is also important for fisheries management. Our findings are relevant to fisheries where sustainability risks are increased by management arrangements based on assumptions that stock structure is absent or stable.
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 27, 2017
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