Fisheries Research Articles

Differential changes in production measures for an estuarine-resident sparid in deep and shallow waters following increases in hypoxia

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science


Print: 0272-7714 Electronic: 1096-0015


Biomass; Productivity; Production to biomass ratio; Inter-annual variations in growth; Environmental degradation;Density-dependence


Aquaculture and Fisheries | Marine Biology


This study determined how productivity measures for a fish species in different water depths of an estuary changed in response to the increase in hypoxia in deep waters, which had previously been shown to occur between 1993–95 and 2007–11. Annual data on length and age compositions, body mass, growth, abundance, biomass, production and production to biomass ratio (P/B) were thus determined for the estuarine-resident Acanthopagrus butcheri in nearshore shallow (<2 m) and offshore deep waters (2–6 m) of the upper Swan River Estuary in those two periods. Length and age compositions imply that the increase in hypoxia was accompanied by the distribution of the majority of the older and larger A. butcheri changing from deep to shallow waters, where the small fish typically reside. Annual densities, biomass and production in shallow waters of <0.02 fish m−2, 2–4 g m−2 and ∼2 g m−2 y−1 in the earlier period were far lower than the 0.1–0.2 fish m−2, 8–15 g m−2 and 5–10 g m−2 y−1 in the later period, whereas the reverse trend occurred in deep waters, with values of 6–9 fish net−1, 2000–3900 g net−1, 900–1700 g net−1 y−1 in the earlier period vs < 1.5 fish net−1, ∼110 g net−1 and 27–45 g net−1 y−1 in the later period. Within the later period, and in contrast to the trends with annual abundance and biomass, the production in shallow waters was least during 2008/09, rather than greatest, reflecting the slow growth in that particularly cool year. The presence of substantial aggregations of both small and large fish in shallow waters accounts for the abundance, biomass and production in those waters increasing between those periods and thus, through a density-dependent effect, provide a basis for the overall reduction in growth. In marked contrast to the trends with the other three production measures, annual production to biomass ratios (P/B) in shallow waters in the two years in the earlier period, and in three of the four years of the later period, fell within the same range, i.e. 0.6–0.9 y−1, but was only 0.2 y−1 in 2008/09, reflecting the poor growth in that year. This emphasises the need to obtain data on P/B for a number of years when considering the implications of the typical P/B for a species in an estuary, in which environmental conditions and the growth of a species can fluctuate markedly between years.



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