The first annulus of otoliths: a tool for studying intra-annual growth of walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma)

  • Matthew T. Wilson
  • Kathryn L. Mier
  • Annette Dougherty


We quantified the growing season of yearling walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) and related it to annual cycles of water temperature and day length. The study was restricted to members of the 2000 year class and thereby controlled for inter-annual variability. Juveniles were sampled from the year class during 10 cruises in the western Gulf of Alaska (GOA). Fifty percent of juveniles exhibited an annulus on 16 March 2001 (± 11 days 95% confidence interval). No regional difference was detected in the timing of annulus formation or in post-annulus growth trajectories. A model, derived from growth trajectories, estimated that the growing season lasted 204 days (22 March to 13 October 2001) and that growth rate peaked at 0.59 mm day−1 on 2 July 2001. Growth rate increased with day length and water temperature during spring and decreased in late summer possibly due to thermal stress. Secondarily, we explored the utility of otolith size at the first annulus as a natural tag to identify nursery area, but this potential was curtailed by overlap in length among regions. Our results indicate that the first annulus can be used to advance our understanding of climate forcing on marine fish growth by providing fine temporal resolution of the growing season.


Juvenile Growing season Nursery 



We thank L. L. Britt, E. S. Brown, M. S. Busby, W. C. Flerx, M. A. Guttormsen, C. M. Jump, D. G. Kachel, M. H. Martin, D. G. Nichol, J. W. Orr, N. W. Raring, P. G. von Szalay, M. E. Wilkins, C. D. Wilson and all cruise personnel from the NOAA ship Miller Freeman, F/V Sea Storm, F/V Ocean Harvester, F/V Morning Star, and F/V Vesteraalen involved in the collection of samples and data. M. Guttormsen, S. Kotwicki, R. Lauth, and N. Williamson extracted the necessary sample information from databases. K. M. Bailey provided initial guidance that helped define our objectives. M. Busby kindly helped with setting up the image analysis system. Consultations with D. Anderl, and D. Kimura were greatly appreciated. J. Short provided access to the AFSC otolith collections. We also thank S. J. Picquelle for statistical assistance. Comments from K. M. Bailey, J. Duffy-Anderson, J. M. Napp, S. J. Picquelle, M. Wilhelm, the AFSC Publications Unit, and three anonymous reviewers improved the manuscript. This research is contribution EcoFOCI-x0765 to NOAA's Ecosystems and Fisheries-Oceanography Coordinated Investigations, and North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) Publication No. 293. It was supported by the Sea Lion Research Initiative (Grant No. 02FF-04), the NPRB (Grant No. R0308), and NOAA’s North Pacific Climate Regimes and Ecosystem Productivity Program.


  1. Acuna E, Lauth RR (2008) Results of the 2007 Eastern Bering Sea continental shelf bottom trawl survey of groundfish and invertebrate resources. U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-AFSC-181, 195 pGoogle Scholar
  2. Agresti A (2003) Categorical data analysis, 2nd edn. Wiley, University of Florida, GainesvilleGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson PJ, Piatt JF (1999) Community reorganization in the Gulf of Alaska following ocean climate regime shift. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 189:117–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bailey KM (2000) Shifting control of recruitment of walleye pollock Theragra chalcogramma after a major climatic and ecosystem change. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 198:215–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bailey KM, Stabeno PJ, Powers DA (1997) The role of larval retention and transport features in mortality and potential gene flow of walleye pollock. J Fish Biol 51(Suppl A):135–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barros P, Holst JC (1995) Identification of geographic origin of Norwegian spring-spawning herring (Clupea harengus L.) based on measurements of scale annuli. ICES J Mar Sci 52:863–872CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beckman DW, Wilson CA (1995) Seasonal timing of opaque zone formation in fish otoliths. In: Secor DH, Dean JM, Campana SE (eds) Recent developments in fish otolith research. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, pp 27–43Google Scholar
  8. Brodeur RD, Wilson MT (1996) A review of the distribution, ecology and population dynamics of age-0 walleye pollock in the Gulf of Alaska. Fish Oceanogr 5(Suppl 1):148–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brodeur RD, Wilson MT, Napp JM, Stabeno PJ, Salo S (1997) Distribution of juvenile pollock relative to frontal structure near the Pribilof Islands, Bering Sea. In: Proceedings of the international symposium on the role of forage fishes in marine ecosystems, University of Alaska Sea Grant College Program, Fairbanks, AK-SG-97-01, pp 573–589Google Scholar
  10. Buchheister A, Wilson MT (2005) Shrinkage correction and length conversion equations for Theragra chalcogramma, Mallotus villosus, and Thaleichthys pacificus. J Fish Biol 67:541–548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Buchheister A, Wilson MT, Foy RJ, Beauchamp DA (2006) Seasonal and geographic variation in condition of juvenile walleye pollock in the western Gulf ofAlaska. Trans Am Fish Soc 135:897–907CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Campana SE (1990) How reliable are growth back-calculations based on otoliths? Can J Fish Aquat Sci 47:2219–2227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cappo M, Eden P, Newman SJ, Robertson S (2000) A new approach to validation of periodicity and timing of opaque zone formation in the otoliths of eleven species of Lutjanus from the central Great Barrier Reef. Fish Bull 98:474–488Google Scholar
  14. Dorn M, Barbeaux S, Guttormsen M, Megrey B, Hollowed A, Brown E, Spalinger K (2002) Assessment of walleye pollock in the Gulf of Alaska. In: Stock Assessment Fishery Evaluation Report for the Groundfish Resources of the Gulf of Alaska. North Pacific Fishery Management Council, Anchorage, pp 33–122Google Scholar
  15. Dorn M, Aydin K, Barbeaux S, Guttormsen M, Megrey B, Spalinger K, Wilkins M (2008) Gulf of Alaska walleye pollock. In: Stock Assessment Fishery Evaluation Report for the Groundfish Resources of the Gulf of Alaska. North Pacific Fishery Management Council, Anchorage, pp 53–168Google Scholar
  16. Durant JM, Hjermann DØ, Ottersen G, Stenseth NC (2007) Climate and the match or mismatch between predator requirements and resource availability. Clim Res 33:271–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Guttormsen MA, Yasenak PT (2006) Results of the February-April 2005 echo integration-trawl surveys of walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) conducted in the Gulf of Alaska, Cruises MF2005-01 and MF2005-05. Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, Seattle, AFSC Processed Report 2006–03, 52 pGoogle Scholar
  18. Henderson PA, Seaby RM (2005) The role of climate in determining the temporal variation in abundance, recruitment and growth of sole Solea solea in the Bristol Channel. J Mar Biol Assoc UK 85:197–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Honkalehto T, McKelvey D, Williamson N (2005) Results of the March 2005 echo integration-trawl survey of walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) conducted in the southeastern Aleutian Basin near Bogoslof Island, Cruise MF2005-03. Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, Seattle, AFSC Processed Report 2005–05, 37 pGoogle Scholar
  20. Ianelli JN, Barbeaux S, Honkalehto T, Kotwicki S, Aydin K, Williamson N (2008) Assessment of the walleye pollock stock in the eastern Bering Sea. In: Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation Report for the Groundfish Resources of the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Regions. North Pacific Fishery Management Council, Anchorage, pp 47–136Google Scholar
  21. Karkach AS (2006) Trajectories and models of individual growth. Demogr Res 15:347–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Katsanevakis S, Maravelias CD (2008) Modelling fish growth: multi-model inference as a better alternative to a priori using von Bertalanffy equation. Fish Fish 9:178–187Google Scholar
  23. Kimura DK (2008) A brief history of age determination of walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center.
  24. Kimura DK, Anderl DM (2005) Quality control of age data at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Mar Freshwater Res 56:783–789CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kimura DK, Kastelle CR, Goetz BJ, Gburski CM, Buslov AV (2006) Corroborating the ages of walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma). Mar Freshwater Res 57:323–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kooka K, Yamamura O, Nishimura A, Hamatsu T, Yanagimoto T (2007) Optimum temperature for growth of juvenile walleye pollock Theragra chalcogramma. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 347:69–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. LaLanne JJ (1977) The validity and consistency of age determinations from otoliths of Pacific pollock (Theragra chalcogramma). Int N Pac Fish Comm Annu Rep 1977:99–107Google Scholar
  28. Media Cybernetics, Inc (2001) Image-Pro plus version 4.5 for Windows Reference Guide. Silver SpringGoogle Scholar
  29. Megrey BA, Rose KA, Klumb RA, Hay DE, Werner FE, Eslinger DL, Smith SL (2007) A bioenergetics-based population dynamics model of Pacific herring (Clupea harengus pallasi) coupled to a lower trophic level nutrient-phytoplankton-zooplankton model: description, calibration, and sensitivity analysis. Ecol Mod 202:144–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nishimura A, Yamada J (1988) Geographical differences in early growth of walleye pollock Theragra chalcogramma, estimated by back-calculation of otolith daily growth increments. Mar Biol 97:459–465CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Picquelle SJ, Megrey BA (1993) A preliminary spawning biomass estimate of walleye pollock, Theragra chalcogramma, in the Shelikof Strait, Alaska, based on the annual egg production method. Bull Mar Sci 53(2):728–749Google Scholar
  32. Pilling GM, Millner RS, Easey MW, Maxwell DL, Tidd AN (2007) Phenology and North Sea cod Gadus morhua L.: has climate change affected otolith annulus formation and growth? J Fish Biol 70:584–599CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Reed RK, Schumacher JD (1986) Physical Oceanography. In: Hood DW, Zimmerman ST (eds) The Gulf of Alaska: physical environment and biological resources. Ocean Assessment Division. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Seattle, pp 57–75Google Scholar
  34. Smith RL, Paul AJ, Paul JM (1986) Effect of food intake and temperature on growth and conversion efficiency ofjuvenile walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma (Pallas)): a laboratory study. J Cons int Explor Mer 42:241–253Google Scholar
  35. Sogard S (1997) Size-selective mortality in the juvenile stage of teleost fishes: A review. Bull Mar Sci 60(3):1129–1157Google Scholar
  36. Sogard SM, Olla BL (2000) Endurance of simulated winter conditions by age-0 walleye pollock: effects of body size, water temperature and energy stores. J Fish Biol 56:1–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Springer AM (1992) A review: Walleye pollock in the North Pacific—how much difference do they really make? Fish Oceanogr 1(1):80–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Stabeno PJ, Bond NA, Hermann AJ, Kachel NB, Mordy CW, Overland JE (2004) Meteorology and oceanography of the northern Gulf of Alaska. Cont Shelf Res 24:859–897CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Stahl JP, Kruse GH (2008) Spatial and temporal variability in size at maturity of walleye pollock in the eastern Bering Sea. Trans Am Fish Soc 137:1543–1557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wilson MT (2000) Effects of year and region on the abundance and size of age-0 walleye pollock, Theragra chalcogramma, in the western Gulf of Alaska, 1985–1988. Fish Bull 98:823–834Google Scholar
  41. Wilson MT (2009) Ecology of small neritic fishes in the western Gulf of Alaska. I. Geographic distribution in relation to prey density and the physical environment. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 392:223–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wilson MT, Brown AL, Mier KL (2005) Geographic variation among age-0 walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma): evidence of mesoscale variation in nursery quality? Fish Bull 103:207–218Google Scholar
  43. Wilson MT, Jump CM, Buchheister A (2009) Ecology of small neritic fishes in the western Gulf of Alaska. II. Consumption of krill in relation to krill standing stock and the physical environment. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 392:239–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Woodbury D (1999) Reduction of growth in otoliths of widow and yellowtail rockfish (Sebastes entomelas and S. flavidus) during the 1983 El Niño. Fish Bull 97:680–689Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. (outside the USA) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew T. Wilson
    • 1
  • Kathryn L. Mier
    • 1
  • Annette Dougherty
    • 1
  1. 1.Alaska Fisheries Science CenterNational Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationSeattleUSA

Personalised recommendations