Using a new approach for determining the age at sexual maturity for wild stocks of western Atlantic bluefin tuna, researchers led by Molly Lutcavage of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Gilad Heinisch of Israel's Oceanographic and Limnological Research Center, suggest that these fish mature at a considerably younger age than cuurently assumed. These findings could lead to changes in how fisheries scientists estimate the population.
Lutcavage says, "Whether a bluefin tuna or cod, for realistic fish stock assessments it's important to know at what age, where, when and how often fish spawn. Here in Gloucester and New England, it's painfully clear from the groundfish management crisis that fisheries scientists and managers must get these basics right."
In their study published on Nov. 28 in Nature's online open-access journal Scientific Reports, Lutcavage, a fisheries oceanographer and director of the Large Pelagics Research Center at UMass Amherst's Gloucester Marine Station, with her two former doctoral students Heinisch and Jessica Knapp at the University of New Hampshire, introduce a new endocrine-based approach to determine timing of sexual maturation in one of the most important commercial tuna species in the Atlantic.
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