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Keywords:

  • ageing;
  • fisheries assessment;
  • life history;
  • longevity;
  • mullet;
  • otolith

This study investigated variation in the rates of growth and mortality, and age and fork-length (LF) compositions of two exploited species of Mugilidae, Liza argentea and Myxus elongatus, in two south-east Australian estuaries (Lake Macquarie and St Georges Basin). An ageing protocol was developed by counting opaque growth zones on sectioned otoliths which was validated by periodically examining the otoliths of captive-reared young-of-the-year fishes, and marginal increment analysis of wild fishes. The maximum recorded age was 17 years for L. argentea and 12 years for M. elongatus, which is greater than generally observed in other species of mugilids. Growth models of each species significantly differed between sexes and, except for male L. argentea, between estuaries. Fishes from Lake Macquarie generally had a greater mean LF at age than those from St Georges Basin and females of both species generally attained a greater maximum LF and age than males. Gillnet catches of L. argentea were of similar LF and age compositions in both estuaries, whereas the age composition of catches of M. elongatus in Lake Macquarie contained a greater proportion of younger fish. Estimates of total, natural and fishing mortality were greater for M. elongatus than L. argentea across both estuaries, and estimates of total mortality were greatest for both species in Lake Macquarie. The data indicate that neither species has been overfished in these estuaries.