Major changes in sardine growth and body condition in the Bay of Biscay between 2003 and 2016: Temporal trends and drivers

Type Article
Date 2020-03
Language English
Author(s) Veron MatthieuORCID1, Duhamel Erwan1, Bertignac MichelORCID2, Pawlowski Lionel1, Huret MartinORCID2
Affiliation(s) 1 : Ifremer, Laboratoire de Biologie et Technologies Halieutique, 8 rue François Toullec, 56 100 Lorient, France
2 : Ifremer, Laboratoire de Biologie Halieutique, 1625 route de Sainte-Anne, 29 280 Plouzané, France
Source Progress In Oceanography (0079-6611) (Elsevier BV), 2020-03 , Vol. 182 , P. 102274 (14p.)
DOI 10.1016/j.pocean.2020.102274
WOS© Times Cited 15
Keyword(s) Body condition, Growth, Decadal trends, Environmental effect, Life history traits, Sardina pilchardus, Bay of Biscay

In the Bay of Biscay, mean body length and weight of sardines (Sardina pilchardus) have been decreasing since the early 2000s and could severely impact the fishing and seafood industry sector. These trends have no apparent link with fishing pressure, although the latter has been increasing since the late 2000s. As part of an effort to develop suitable assessment and management tools for this stock, we investigated the life-history traits of sardine and analyze its seasonal and inter-annual variations. Based on 14 years of morphometric data from both scientific surveys and professional samples, we analyzed the variability in sardine body condition and its responses to environmental changes. Generalized Additive Models revealed an age-sex specific decreasing trend in body length over the study period, with most of the variability explained by the age class. Linear Mixed Effect Models applied to the body condition evidenced its strong seasonality and an age class specific decreasing trend. Regardless of age class, maximal body condition is reached at the end summer, after the spawning and plankton productive periods. Overall, annual trends in body condition-at-age showed remarkable coherence, with a significant decrease since 2007 for all age classes, suggesting that factors influencing body condition operate at population level. The shift in sardine body condition towards lower values could be broken down into three periods, with a high dependence on surface Chlorophyll-a and sea surface temperature. However, this study highlights that the period supporting the main decrease in body condition is characterized by high Chlorophyll-a, the available proxy for food, which is counterintuitive. Such a result suggests more complex trophic responses involving secondary production, with potential shift in the timing of the production and/or the quality of the food. At the population level, those changes may have a long-term negative effect, with a decrease in body length and important changes in phenology (length at first maturity, reproductive phenology) and potential consequences on sardine population dynamics in the Bay of Biscay.

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