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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The effect of intertidal exposure on the survival and embryonic development of Pacific herring spawn Jones, Barry Cyril


Eggs of Pacific herring were exposed to air for different periods of time in simulation of tidal effects on spawn deposits at varying beach heights. The maximum exposure range was 2/3 of a 24 hour day corresponding roughly to the exposure of eggs at 4 meters above mean low tide on the British Columbia coast. Egg size, spawning fish length, and egg clump size were examined as secondary factors modifying the effect of exposure. Incubation time dropped from 19 to 18 days with only two 2-hour periods of exposure per day and thereafter fell slowly. It is suggested that oxygen deprivation triggered a hatching response for the initial drop, whereas the gradual decrease was due to a higher air temperature increasing metabolism. Hatching mortality rose steadily from an unexposed 13% to 31% at maximum exposure time, with significantly higher contributions from eggs of smaller fish and smaller egg clumps. Larval length at hatching for the unexposed eggs was 7.7 mm.; lengths for all degrees of exposure were similar (7% less than for no exposure). Larval weight (body plus yolk) remained relatively constant (0.099 mg.) until the longest exposure period when it dropped to 0.087 mg. This decrease coincided with similar sharp trends in incubation time and hatching mortality, and suggests a "critical point" near the upper experimental range of exposure, above which eggs stand little chance of normal development or survival. Beach surveys to note possible egg size stratification, although suggesting the deposition of larger eggs at the top levels, proved inconclusive, but point up the possibility that a heavy fishing pressure which reduces mean fish size might detrimentally affect potential stock recruitment via the intertidal exposure effect on the spawn.

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