Recent studies using otolith microstructure analysis have suggested that the duration of the juvenile stage in anchoveta (Engraulis ringens) is shorter than previously suspected, which suggests that the ages being entered into the traditional age-based stock assessment are incorrect. However, the interpretation of young pelagic fish otoliths remains problematic. To clarify the age interpretation of larval and juvenile E. ringens, newly hatched larvae were reared in a quasi-natural environment for periods of up to 103 days. The sagittal otoliths were subsequently examined and measured by international otolith experts in a double-blind workshop study. The young anchovy could be aged both accurately and precisely using otolith microstructure, after measures were taken to correct for unresolvable increments formed immediately after hatch. The presence of a fast-growth transition zone characterised by either considerable splitting or subdaily increments or both was confirmed. This study confirms the hypothesis of rapid growth and young age through the juvenile stage for anchoveta, suggesting that a critical appraisal of the annual age determinations used as the basis for anchoveta stock assessment is warranted. The otolith interpretation principles outlined in this study may apply broadly across many small pelagic fish species.
- splitting rings