Do abiotic mechanisms determine interannual variability in length-at-age of juvenile Arcto-Norwegian cod?
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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For the large Arcto-Norwegian stock of cod (Gadus morhua L.) in the Barents Sea, year-to-year variability in growth is well documented. Here three hypotheses for the observed inverse relation between abundance and the mean length-at-age of juveniles (ages 1–4) are suggested and evaluated. Based on comprehensive data, we conclude that year-to-year differences in length-at-age are mainly determined by density-independent mechanisms during the pelagic first half year of the fishes’ life. Enhanced inflow from the southwest leads to an abundant cohort at the 0- group stage being distributed farther east into colder water masses, causing lower postsettlement growth rates. We can not reject density-dependent growth effects related to variability in food rations, but our data do not suggest this to be the main mechanism. Another hypothesis suggests that lower growth rates during periods of high abundance are a result of density-dependent mechanisms causing the geographic range of juveniles to extend eastwards into colder water masses. This is rejected mainly because year-to-year differences in mean length are established by age 2, which is too early for movements over large distances.