Age and growth rate of juvenile bluefin tuna Thunnus thynnus from the Mediterranean sea (Sicily, Italy)
Keywords:age and growth, bluefin tuna, otoliths, Mediterranean Sea
The microstructural analysis of the sagittal otoliths of juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna, Thunnus thynnus, can be used to estimate the age and growth rate of young-of-the-year individuals born in the Mediterranean. Samples of juvenile bluefin tuna, obtained as by-catch of the local small-scale pelagic fishery for Atlantic bonito and dolphinfish, were collected off the northern coast of Sicily between late August and early November 2002. Otolith age readings were carried out on 56 specimens ranging between 195 and 400 mm fork length and between 112 and 1266 g total weight. Based on microincrement analysis along a counting path from the otolith core to the antirostrum, juvenile fishes were found to be between 77 days and 153 days old. The estimated growth rate was practically linear over the whole size range, accounting for about 2.0-2.37 mm/day. Derived from the length-weight relationship and the estimated length-at-age data, the mean weight-at-age was 168, 429 and 813 g for 2, 3 and 4 month-old juveniles respectively. Furthermore, the hatching date distribution of bluefin tuna, obtained by means of the back-calculation of ageing data, indicated a spawning period of at least two months, namely from mid-May to mid-July, with a peak in mid-June. Our data indicate that juvenile bluefin tuna have a very high growth rate in the first part of their life, reaching a weight of more than 1 kg in four months.
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