Spatially-resolved influence of temperature and salinity on stock and recruitment variability of commercially important fishes in the North Sea
Understanding of the processes affecting recruitment of commercially important fish species is one of the major challenges in fisheries science. Towards this aim, we investigated the relation between North Sea hydrography (temperature and salinity) and fish stock variables (recruitment, spawning stock biomass and pre-recruitment survival index) for 9 commercially important fishes using spatially-resolved cross-correlation analysis. We used high-resolution (0.2° × 0.2°) hydrographic data fields matching the maximal temporal extent of the fish population assessments (1948–2013). Our approach allowed for the identification of regions in the North Sea where environmental variables seem to be more influential on the fish stocks, as well as the regions of a lesser or nil influence. Our results confirmed previously demonstrated negative correlations between temperature and recruitment of cod and plaice and identified regions of the strongest correlations (German Bight for plaice and north-western North Sea for cod). We also revealed a positive correlation between herring spawning stock biomass and temperature in the Orkney-Shetland area, as well as a negative correlation between sole pre-recruitment survival index and temperature in the German Bight. A strong positive correlation between sprat stock variables and salinity in the central North Sea was also found. To our knowledge the results concerning correlations between North Sea hydrography and stocks’ dynamics of herring, sole and sprat are novel. The new information about spatial distribution of the correlation provides an additional help to identify mechanisms underlying these correlations. As an illustration of the utility of these results for fishery management, an example is provided that incorporates the identified environmental covariates in stock-recruitment models.