Fisheries Research Articles

Exceptional longevity in a lightly exploited, semi-anadromous clupeid (Perth herring Nematalosa vlaminghi) within a degraded estuarine environment

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Publication Date


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Journal of Fish Biology


Print: 0022-1112 Electronic: 1095-8649


Clupeidae; Western Australia; anadromy; life span; natural mortality; periodic strategist


Aquaculture and Fisheries | Marine Biology


Many anadromous (and semi-anadromous) fish species, which migrate from marine to freshwater ecosystems to spawn and to complete their life cycle, are currently threatened by habitat degradation in the upper parts of estuaries and rivers, where spawning and juvenile nursery areas occur. This situation pertains to Nematalosa vlaminghi, a semi-anadromous gizzard shad (Clupeidae: Dorosomatinae) endemic to south-western Australia. More information on the biology of N. vlaminghi is required for its effective management and conservation. This study estimated growth, longevity and natural mortality of N. vlaminghi. Ages were determined by counting validated annual growth increments in thin sections of sagittal otoliths. Fish were sampled in the Swan-Canning Estuary, which historically hosted the main commercial fishery for N. vlaminghi. Since the late 1990s, however, only very minor catches of this species have been taken from this estuary and none since 2007. Given the essentially unexploited state of the current population, the estimate of total mortality (Z, y-1 ) from the catch curve analysis in this study provides a direct estimate of natural mortality (M, y-1 ) for N. vlaminghi. Somatic growth during this study was substantially slower than that historically reported for N. vlaminghi. Various processes operating in this estuary since the 1970s may have contributed to slower growth, including increased hypoxia, higher primary productivity due to eutrophication and cessation of fishing for N. vlaminghi. The maximum observed age of 19.8 years for N. vlaminghi is the highest reported for any gizzard shad globally and one of the highest reported for any clupeid species. This exceptional longevity is likely part of a life-history strategy that allows N. vlaminghi, which exhibits substantial variation in annual recruitment success, to persist in the intermittently closed estuaries of south-western Australia where environmental factors, including low flow and hypoxia, can create unfavourable conditions for reproduction for extended periods.



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