The influence of oceanographic processes on jack mackerel (Trachurus murphyi) larval distribution and population structure in the southeastern Pacific Ocean

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Abstract

The distribution of jack mackerel larvae in the main oceanic spawning area of the southeastern Pacific Ocean was investigated through three consecutive spring bio-oceanographic surveys (2003–2005). In this study, otolith microstructure analysis revealed a spatial age gradient with the smallest/youngest larvae specimens found primarily in the offshore area and the largest/oldest found in the coastal area, implying offshore-inshore larval drift. This suggests a connection between the oceanic spawning area and the historical coastal nursery ground (north of 30°S). In order to understand the oceanographic processes that drive this larval transport, we inferred circulation patterns from two data sources: mesoscale eddy trajectories identified by applying the Okubo-Weiss parameter to satellite geostrophic currents, and 20 years of satellite tracking data of drifters. Our results showed that eddy trajectories lead to net northwestward offshore transport (the opposite direction of larval connectivity). In addition, mean circulation associated with the subtropical anticyclonic gyre and recurrent energetic meandering structures seem to be the major mechanisms driving the spatial dynamics of the early jack mackerel life history, determining a net transport to nursery grounds. These mechanisms could play a key role in recruitment, which supports the continuity of the jack mackerel population.

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