Spatial and sex-specific variation in growth of albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga) across the South Pacific Ocean

Ashley J. Williams, Jessica H. Farley, Simon D. Hoyle, Campbell R. Davies, Simon J. Nicol

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Abstract

Spatial variation in growth is a common feature of demersal fish populations which often exist as discrete adult sub-populations linked by a pelagic larval stage. However, it remains unclear whether variation in growth occurs at similar spatial scales for populations of highly migratory pelagic species, such as tuna. We examined spatial variation in growth of albacore Thunnus alalunga across 90° of longitude in the South Pacific Ocean from the east coast of Australia to the Pitcairn Islands. Using length-at-age data from a validated ageing method we found evidence for significant variation in length-at-age and growth parameters (L and k) between sexes and across longitudes. Growth trajectories were similar between sexes up until four years of age, after which the length-at-age for males was, on average, greater than that for females. Males reached an average maximum size more than 8 cm larger than females. Length-at-age and growth parameters were consistently greater at more easterly longitudes than at westerly longitudes for both females and males. Our results provide strong evidence that finer spatial structure exists within the South Pacific albacore stock and raises the question of whether the scale of their "highly migratory" nature should be re-assessed. Future stock assessment models for South Pacific albacore should consider sex-specific growth curves and spatial variation in growth within the stock.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere39318
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalPLoS One
Volume7
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes

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Williams, A. J., Farley, J. H., Hoyle, S. D., Davies, C. R., & Nicol, S. J. (2012). Spatial and sex-specific variation in growth of albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga) across the South Pacific Ocean. PLoS One, 7(6), 1-10. [e39318]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0039318