Fisheries Research Articles

Marked deleterious changes in the condition, growth and maturity schedules of Acanthopagrus butcheri (Sparidae) in an estuary reflect environmental degradation

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science


Print: 0272-7714 Electronic: 1096-0015


estuarine fish; biological characteristics; plasticity; eutrophication; hypoxia; density dependence


Aquaculture and Fisheries | Marine Biology


As Acanthopagrus butcheri typically completes its life within its natal estuary and possesses plastic biological characteristics, it provides an excellent model for exploring the ways and extent to which a fish species can respond to environmental changes over time. The environment of the Swan River Estuary in south-western Australia has deteriorated markedly during the last two decades, reflecting the effects of increasing eutrophication and hypoxia in the upper regions, where A. butcheri spends most of the year and spawns. In this study, the biological characteristics of A. butcheri in 2007–11 were determined and compared with those in 1993–95. Between these two periods, the condition factor for females and males of A. butcheri across their length ranges declined by 6 and 5%, respectively, and the parameters k and L∞ in the von Bertalanffy growth curves of both sexes underwent marked reductions. The predicted lengths of females and males at all ages ≥1 year were less in 2007–11 than in 1993–95 and by over 30% less at ages 3 and 6. The ogives relating maturity to length and age typically differed between 1993–94 and 2007–10. The L50s of 156 mm for females and 155 mm for males in 2007–10 were less than the corresponding values of 174 and 172 mm in 1993–94, whereas the A50s of 2.5 years for both females and males in 2007–10 were greater than the corresponding values of 1.9 and 2.0 years in 1993–94. The above trends in condition, growth and maturity parameters between periods are consistent with hypotheses regarding the effects of increasing hypoxia on A. butcheri in offshore, deeper waters. However, as the density of A. butcheri declined in offshore, deeper waters and increased markedly in nearshore, shallow waters, density-dependent effects in the latter waters, although better oxygenated, also probably contributed to the overall reductions in growth and thus to the changes in the lengths and ages at maturity.



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)