Effect of temperature on the growth of the commercially fished common whelk (Buccinum undatum, L.): A regional analysis within the Irish Sea
In response to increased demand in Asian markets, the commercial fishery for the common whelk (Buccinum undatum, L) has expanded in north-eastern Europe. In the Irish Sea region (ICES Area 20 VHa), increased effort and landings have raised concerns about long-term stability of the fishery amongst stakeholders. Fisheries in Welsh waters and the Isle of Man territorial sea are now subject to an increased minimum landing size according to the best available scientific data. This study addresses key knowledge gaps by investigating the size-at-age relationship of the species across the latitudinal extent of the fisheries management region. Our findings show that growth parameters, modelled using growth rings observed in the statolith, vary between populations and show a broadly latitudinal pattern. Thermal-time (expressed as sea bottom temperature degree-days) showed a significant negative linear relationship with the asymptotic size reach by whelk populations (L-infinity), where whelk grew to a larger maximum size in cooler waters. Other parameters, including maximum growth rates and the age at which growth rate begins to decrease, showed clear trends with sea-bottom temperature but linear modelling failed to detect significant relationships, where warmer waters increase the rate of growth in the early life stages of whelk but cooler waters allow growth to continue until later in life. Whilst there are substantial requirements to further validate and refine the relationship between growth and sea-bottom temperature, extrapolation of these data to other regions in Northeast Europe may provide a valuable tool in approximating important life-history characteristics in stock assessments, such as L-infinity, age-at-L-50 and age-at-recruitment.
Authors: Emmerson, J.A., Hollyman, Philip R. ORCID record for Philip R. Hollyman, Bloor, I.S.M., Jenkins, S.R.