Get access

Historical fluctuations in spawning location of anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) and sardine (Sardina pilchardus) in the Bay of Biscay during 1967–73 and 2000–2004




The spatial extent of small pelagic fish spawning habitat is influenced by environmental factors and by the state of the adult population. In return, the configuration of spawning habitat affects recruitment and therefore the future structure of the adult population. Interannual changes in spatial patterns of spawning reflect variations in adult population structures and their environment. The present study describes the historical changes in the spatial distribution of spawning of anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) and sardine (Sardina pilchardus) in the Bay of Biscay during two periods: 1967–72 and 2000–2004. Using data from egg surveys conducted in spring, the spatial distributions of anchovy and sardine eggs are characterized by means of geostatistics. For each survey, a map of probability of egg presence is constructed. The maps are then compared to define (1) recurrent spawning areas, (2) occasional spawning areas and (3) unfavourable spawning areas during each period. Sardine spawning habitat is generally fragmented and appears spatially limited by the presence of cold bottom water. It is confined to coastal or shelf break refuge areas in years of restricted spawning extent. For anchovy, recurrent spawning sites are found in Gironde and Adour estuaries whilst spawning can extend further offshore in years of more intense spawning. For both species, the mean pattern of spawning has changed between 1967–72 and 2000–2004. Noticeably, the spatial distribution of anchovy eggs in spring has expanded northward. This trend possibly results from changes in environmental conditions during the last four decades.