Age, growth and reproductive biology of whiting Merlangius merlangus (Linnaeus 1758) in the Celtic Sea
Age, growth and reproductive biology were investigated for whiting (Merlangius merlangus) captured from the Celtic Sea (ICES division Vllg), for the period January 2001 to January 2002. Females dominated the sex ratio of 1: 2.25. The relative abundance of females exceeded the number of males in all length classes. The relationship between weight (g) and total length (cm) was the same for male and female whiting. A total of 973 fish were aged and the maximum age recorded was 11 years. Results from an intercalibration exercise showed 87% agreement in age readings between the author and an expert in ageing whiting at the Marine Institute. Females were dominated by 2 year olds, while males were dominated by 3 year olds. Lx was estimated as 38cm and a growth rate was calculated K = 0.3769 year'1. Females were fully recruited to the fishery at 3 years of age, while the age at full recruitment (tr) for males was 4 years. Female whiting spawned from late February to June 2001 and matured at a total length of 23 cm in their first year. Female whiting reached L5o at a total length of 28 cm and 2.7 years of age. Male whiting spawned from February to June 2001. They matured at a total length of 21 cm and in their first year. Male whiting reached L50 at a total length of 30.4 cm and 3.6 years of age. The following critical points should be taken into account in the management of the Celtic Sea whiting stock: An Fpa should be established in order to assess the current level of fishing mortality; The maturity ogives need further study; The extent of gutting of large fish before landing by fishers in the fleet should be investigated and the apparent decline in size of 4 - 7 year old fish in the Celtic Sea between 1996 and 2001 needs to be assessed.
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