Age, growth and reproductive biology of Plaice, (Pleuronectes platessa L.) in Irish waters, 2003-2005
The current study presents data on age and growth for plaice (Pleuronectes platessa L.) sampled between November 2003 and February 2005 in ICES areas Via (northwest coast of Ireland), Vila (Irish Sea), Vllg (Celtic Sea), VDj (southwest coast of Ireland) and VHb (west coast of Ireland), and data on the reproductive biology and maturity of plaice in ICES area Vllb (west coast of Ireland). This is the first detailed account of the biology of plaice for some of these areas. It is intended that this study will improve understanding of the life cycle of plaice and help fisheries scientists to better predict the effect of fishing effort on Irish plaice stocks. The overall length range found for plaice was 9-51.99cm TL, with a length range of 9-5 lcm TL for females and 9-40cm for males. In all ICES areas the length range for female fish was larger than for male fish. The age range of plaice sampled during this study was 1 to 16 years. In all ICES areas females had a greater range in ages and fish in the larger age groups. From analysis of length and age data it was concluded that there was a significant difference (P=0.000) in growth rate of males and females between ICES areas sampled in March 2004. The highest rate of fishing mortality was determined for ICES area Via (F=1.06) and the lowest for ICES area Vila (F=0.56). In each ICES area male and female plaice have fully recruited to the population by age 4, with the exception of females in ICES area Via, for which a tr value of 5 years was determined. Length at first maturity (L50%) was determined to be 23cm and 21cm for males and females respectively. Age at first maturity (A50%) was determined to be 3 years for both males and females. It was found that males and females in ICES areas Vllb, Vila and Via are well above the length and age at first maturity when they are recruited to the fishery. In ICES area Vllb female plaice spawn from November to March, with peak spawning occurring in February, and male plaice spawn from November to April, with peak spawning occurring in November. Spawning females had an age range of 2 to 10 years and spawning males had an age range of 2 to 7 years. From the oocyte length frequency distributions, it was determined that the plaice is a determinate batch spawner. During this investigation a total of 177 ovaries and 127 testes were staged using both macroscopic and histological criteria. The overall percentage of maturity stages which compared favorably between the two assessment methods was 22.03% for female plaice and 37.80% for male plaice. In general, the findings of this study indicate that there was a very poor match between the macroscopic and histological assessment methods. Given that the histological determination of these stages is based on the observation of a distinct set of developmental features, it is expected that it would be more accurate to use histologically assessed gonads to calculate the annual percentage maturity assessment. The biology of plaice in the areas studied is compared with previous studies of plaice in Irish and European waters.
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