Causes of walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) recruitment decline in the northern Sea of Japan: implications for stock management




Recruitment of the northern Japan Sea stock (JSS) of walleye pollock has been decreasing since around 1990. In this study, I analyzed the factors causing this decrease in recruitment by investigating the relationship between recruitment, spawning stock biomass (SSB) and environmental factors using a generalized additive model (GAM). GAM fit to the data showed the importance of SSB, sea surface temperature (SST), ocean current strength (Tsushima Warm Current) and wind intensity (Asian monsoon) in determining the recruitment. Of these, the relationship between SSB and recruitment was positive and not negatively density-dependent. On the other hand, the recruitment was negatively related to SST and ocean current strength, and a dome-shaped relationship was observed between wind intensity and recruitment. Since around 1990, the values of SST and ocean current strength have mostly been high and that of wind intensity mostly low. In addition, SSB has been decreasing since the late 1990s. It is likely that the recruitment decline of JSS after approximately 1990 has been caused by warm water temperature, strong Tsushima Warm Current and weak Asian monsoon, and that the recent decrease in SSB has amplified this recruitment decline. According to the model’s estimation, a recruitment recovery due to environmental improvement will be highly restricted as long as SSB remains at its current low level. Significant recovery of SSB is urgently needed for JSS.