Changes in the distribution of sardine eggs and larvae off Portugal, 1985-2000

Y Stratoudakis, M Bernal, David Louis Borchers, MF Borges, F Cardador

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Generalized additive models (GAMs) were fitted to sardine (Sardina pilchardus ) egg distribution data from three daily egg production method surveys. The results showed that the area of egg cover off Portugal decreased significantly from 11 800 km(2) in 1988 to 7000 km(2) in 1997 and 7400 km(2) in 1999. This is because of a significant reduction in sardine egg presence off northern Portugal, GAM estimated areas being similar or higher in the late 1990s for southwestern and southern Portugal. The distributional area covered by larvae was not estimated for 1988 (larval distribution extended beyond the survey area), although it was probably higher than the 9600 km(2) for 1997 and 5500 km(2) for 1999. In 1997 and 1999, the Gulf of Cadiz was also sampled, indicating extensive areas with sardine eggs and larvae (more than 50% of the total area of distribution off Portugal). Standardized data from 15 ichthyoplankton surveys between 1985 and 2000 show a decline in the mean probability of egg presence within the Portuguese continental shelf from the mid-1980s to the late-1990s, because of a marked reduction in egg presence off northern Portugal. Sardine larval data from the same surveys suggest that the reduction in mean probability of presence in the north is less marked than for eggs (although this comparison ignores the presence of sardine larvae beyond the continental shelf in the 1980s). Similar changes off northern Portugal and western Galicia are observed in commercial sardine catches and the acoustically estimated area of fish distribution. It is possible that the observed decline in spawning area off northwestern Iberia during the 1990s is indirectly reflecting the prevalence of environmental conditions detrimental to sardine recruitment (northerly winds during winter that favour coastal upwelling and offshore transport), which have reduced the spawning contribution of young fish in that area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-60
Number of pages12
JournalFisheries Oceanography
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • decadal changes
  • distribution
  • generalized additive models
  • Iberia
  • sardine


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