Does Condition of Young-of-the-Year Fish Vary Among Years and Nursery Habitats in Virginia Estuaries?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013: 4:20 PM
Manning (The Marriott Little Rock)
Ryan Schloesser , Fisheries, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Gloucester Point, VA
Mary C. Fabrizio , Fisheries Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Gloucester Point, VA
Indices of relative abundance of young-of-the-year (YOY) fish are typically used to assess year-class strength, however, purportedly strong year classes may not always produce subsequent recruits to the fishery.  The condition of individuals in a year class may contribute to recruitment variability due to differential survival of poor- and well-conditioned fish.  Lipid and energy content are standard measures of condition, and are important for fueling migration and promoting survival during periods of food scarcity or environmental stress.  We hypothesize that variation in condition of YOY Summer Flounder, Striped Bass, and Atlantic Croaker may reflect inter-annual environmental changes; we also hypothesize that fish condition may reflect differential suitability of nursery areas.  Condition of individual fish (602<n<2950 per species) was assessed using two non-lethal metrics that correlated strongly with lipid and energy content for these species.  Mean condition differed among years for Summer Flounder and Striped Bass, and seasonal trends in mean condition were apparent for Summer Flounder and Atlantic Croaker.  Observed spatial patterns in mean condition suggest significant variability in condition of YOY fishes, but these patterns may not be consistent from year to year.