• food availability;
  • growth;
  • herring;
  • larval survival;
  • otolith;
  • temperature

Considerable interannual variation in the abundance of larval and juvenile Pacific herring Clupea pallasii was detected in Miyako Bay, on the Pacific coast of northern Japan; abundances were high in 2001 and 2003 and low in 2000 and 2002. Hatch dates and growth rates for larval and juvenile survivors were estimated through otolith analysis. Water temperature and food availability were monitored on the spawning and nursery grounds in the inner part of the bay. The number of spawning females caught in nets set around the spawning ground was recorded during each spawning season (January to May) in 2000–2003. No correlation was found between the number of spawning females and the abundance of larvae and juveniles on the spawning and nursery grounds. The hatch dates of surviving larvae and juveniles were concentrated at the end of the spawning season in 2001 and in the middle of the season in 2003. The larvae experienced relatively high prey concentrations during the first-feeding period in 2001 but low concentrations in 2003. Survival of larvae during the first-feeding period may be a function of prey concentration as well as water temperature. In 2003, low water temperature would reduce starvation mortality during the first-feeding period. In contrast, unfavourable feeding conditions with higher temperatures during the first-feeding period seemed to result in low larval survival in 2000 and 2002. The 2001 larvae grew faster than those in 2003 because of the late hatch dates and the higher ambient temperatures that resulted. Temperature might be a major factor controlling growth rates of C. pallasii larvae in Miyako Bay.