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Seasonal variability of fecundity and spawning dynamics of Baltic sprat

Seasonal variability in fecundity has been observed in a number of marine fishes and is important towards understanding the reproductive potential of a fish stock. However, the seasonal dynamics of egg production of Baltic sprat (Sprattus sprattus balticus S) have not been well described to date. We present data on the timing of spawning, and the seasonal variability in batch fecundity, number of developing oocytes, oocyte dry weight, spawning fraction, fish condition and atresia for this species in the Bornholm Basin, Baltic Sea. Histological techniques in combination with image analysis were applied to investigate those variables based upon material sampled in 2005 and 2008. Sprat were reported to be in spawning condition from January to June in each year plus in 2008 signs of ovarian maturation were also observed in November. Relative batch fecundity was found to vary two-fold with 85 eggs g-1 ovary free body weight observed early in the spawning season (January 2005) and 165 eggs g-1 ovary free body weight late in the spawning season (June 2008). Variability in batch fecundity during peak spawning was rather low. A seasonal decrease in oocyte dry weight was related to an increase in batch fecundity. Spawning fraction varied over the course of the spawning period with values ranging from 0.29 in March to 0.18 in June. Stereometric analyses confirmed the indeterminate fecundity of Baltic sprat. Prevalence of atresia was low during peak spawning in April to June (1.0–4.0%) but considerably higher during the early spawning period in March (16.4%) and highest in November (38.5%). Female sprat condition was low during the spawning period and increased sharply after spawning ceased. Our study provides a better understanding of fecundity and spawning dynamics of Baltic sprat which will aid to improve the assessment of reproductive potential of this ecologically and economically important fish species.

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