Impact of freshwater input and wind on landings of anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) and sardine (Sardina pilchardus) in shelf waters surrounding the Ebre (Ebro) River delta (north-western Mediterranean)

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*e-mail: lloret@icm.csic.es

Abstract

Time series analyses (Box–Jenkins models) were used to study the influence of river runoff and wind mixing index on the productivity of the two most abundant species of small pelagic fish exploited in waters surrounding the Ebre (Ebro) River continental shelf (north-western Mediterranean): anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) and sardine (Sardina pilchardus). River flow and wind were selected because they are known to enhance fertilization and local planktonic production, thus being crucial for the survival of fish larvae. Time series of the two environmental variables and landings of the two species were analysed to extract the trend and seasonality. All series displayed important seasonal and interannual fluctuations. In the long term, landings of anchovy declined while those of sardine increased. At the seasonal scale, landings of anchovy peaked during spring/summer while those of sardine peaked during spring and autumn. Seasonality in landings of anchovy was stronger than in sardine. Concerning the environmental series, monthly average Ebre runoff showed a progressive decline from 1960 until the late 1980s, and the wind mixing index was highest during 1994–96. Within the annual cycle, the minimum river flow occurs from July to October and the wind mixing peaks in winter (December–April, excluding January). The results of the analyses showed a significant correlation between monthly landings of anchovy and freshwater input of the Ebre River during the spawning season of this species (April–August), with a time lag of 12 months. In contrast, monthly landings of sardine were significantly positively correlated with the wind mixing index during the spawning season of this species (November–March), with a lag of 18 months. The results provide evidence of the influence of riverine inputs and wind mixing on the productivity of small pelagic fish in the north-western Mediterranean. The time lags obtained in the relationships stress the importance of river runoff and wind mixing for the early stages of anchovy and sardine, respectively, and their impact on recruitment.

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