Previous studies have shown that four commercially important demersal species, namely cod (Gadus morhua), haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus), whiting (Merlangius merlangus) and plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) spawn in distinct areas across the North Sea. Based on two comprehensive ichthyoplankton surveys in 2004 and 2009, the present study uses Generalized Additive Mixed Models (GAMMs) to delimit these spawning grounds using the distribution of recently spawned eggs, investigates their relationship to specific environmental conditions and examines egg dispersal during their development. Results indicate that presence/absence of early stage eggs is more related to temporal and topographic variables, while egg densities are closely linked with hydrography. Egg distribution patterns were relatively consistent during development and only changed near hatching. Compared to historic observations, the location of the spawning grounds appeared stable on the broad scale but centres of egg abundance varied between the surveyed years. Potential effects of long term climate change and anthropogenic short-term disturbances, such as seismic surveys, on fish reproduction are discussed, pointing out the demand for multi-species studies on these issues.
|Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
|Published - 26 Mar 2017