Spatial and temporal distribution of Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) along the northeast coast of the United States, 1985–1999

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The distribution of Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) during their spring migration along the Mid-Atlantic Bight and into the Gulf of Maine has historically been associated with spring warming along the continental shelf. Variations in mackerel distributions based on National Marine Fisheries Service spring surveys were compared with variations in sea surface temperature (SST) from satellite remote sensing for the eastern US continental shelf for the period 1985–1999. The mackerel stock was first analysed as a unit, then separated into three size classes to assess differences in distribution among years and individuals of various lengths. Results showed an across-shelf correlation between catch and March SST in the Mid-Atlantic Bight for both the entire population and each size class. Along-shelf catch variations were correlated with SST for large mackerel, but not total stock or smaller size classes. Finally, the distribution of mackerel length in the Gulf of Maine was negatively correlated with March SST in the Great South Channel. Results suggest surface temperature along the northeast continental shelf may be used to predict certain, but not all, aspects of annual migration along the shelf, and that factors in addition to temperature are also important in controlling distributions of Atlantic mackerel.

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