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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Early life history characteristics of Pacific herring, Clupea harengus pallasi Valenciennes 1847, in the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia : hydrodynamics, dispersal, and analysis of growth rates Robinson, Shawn Michael Charles

Abstract

Cohorts of larval Pacific herring, Clupea harengus pallasi Valenciennes 1847, were studied from hatch during the spring of 1985, 1986, and 1987 in the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia. The main objectives were to study the patterns in the larval dispersal process, to study a major spawning area for Pacific herring to determine whether this site may act as a nursery area for the resulting year-class, and to evaluate the current hypotheses concerning survival of the larval year-class for their applicability to Pacific herring. Results indicated a significant proportion of larval herring which hatched in Lambert Channel quickly dispersed into Baynes Sound, probably through a combination of tidal movements and wind driven surface currents. Baynes Sound was shown to be much more stable than Lambert Channel due to strong stratification through freshwater input and protection from wind mixing by the surrounding land masses which may also have resulted in an earlier spring plankton bloom. Baynes Sound also had significantly higher densities of microzooplankton important to the early feeding herring larvae than Lambert Channel and outside waters. The suite of potential predators was also different between the two channels with Baynes Sound having more hydromedusae and Lambert Channel having more chaetognaths and polychaetes. Analysis of larval growth rates using an RNA/DNA ratio technique on individuals from the yolk sac stage onwards indicated the larvae initially grew very slowly but, by postflexion were growing over 25 %•d⁻¹ in protein. Starvation did not appear to play an important role in mortality. The RNA/DNA ratio was demonstrated to be directly correlated with a morphometric condition factor Pacific herring larvae indicating it can also be used as a condition factor. There was a significant positive correlation between the mean protein growth rate measured with RNA/DNA ratios and the mean nauplii density. Feeding larvae in Baynes Sound were found to be growing faster than those in Lambert Channel suggesting Baynes Sound was being used as a nursery area. Analysis of otoliths suggested there was a significant increase in survival of larval herring having higher growth rates over as little as a 3-week period.

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