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Keywords:

  • pelagic fish eggs;
  • sampling;
  • spawning;
  • Brevoortia tyrannus;
  • Engraulis mordax;
  • Sardinops sagax;
  • Gulf Stream;
  • optical plankton counter

We describe a method to sample the highly contagious distribution of pelagic fish eggs. CUFES, the continuous, underway fish egg sampler, consists of a submersible pump, concentrator, electronics and sample collector. This system operates continuously and under nearly all sea conditions, providing a real-time estimate of the volumetric abundance of pelagic fish eggs at pump depth, usually 3 m. CUFES-derived estimates of volumetric abundance agree well with those from nets towed at pump depth and with areal abundance estimated from vertically integrated plankton tows. CUFES has been used successfully to sample the eggs of menhaden, pinfish, sardine, and anchovy off the coasts of the eastern and western United States and South Africa. Two large patches of eggs of the Atlantic menhaden were sampled off North Carolina in winter 1993–94, had a linear scale of 5–10 km, and were found in waters between the Gulf Stream and mid-shelf front. Spawning location may be related to bathymetry. CUFES is now being used to estimate spawner biomass by the daily egg production method. An optical plankton counter provided accurate estimates of the number of Atlantic menhaden eggs sample by CUFES.