The relationship between larval fish assemblages and coastal oceanography is the basis for much of our understanding of connectivity and productivity of fish populations. Larval fish assemblages were sampled from the upper mixed layer (<50 m depth) at three prominent circulation features [separation of the East Australian Current (EAC), anticyclonic eddy, and cyclonic eddy] off the southeast Australian coast across three bathymetric zones (shelf, slope and ocean) for each feature. The separation of the EAC from the coast at ∼32°S was characterized by warmer, less saline water compared with the cyclonic and anticyclonic eddies further to the south (∼34 and ∼35°S, respectively), which were both characterized by cooler Tasman Sea water and greater fluorescence. The anticyclonic eddy had separated from the EAC three months prior to sampling, which facilitated the movement of a cyclonic eddy from the Tasman Sea westwards to the shelf at ∼34°S. The larval assemblage in the EAC had high numbers of fish of the families Labridae and Stomiidae. The cyclonic eddy was characterized by larval clupeids, carangids, scombrids and bothids, indicating recent entrainment of shelf waters and proximity to major spawning regions. In contrast, the anticyclonic eddy had fewer larval fish, with little evidence for entrainment of shelf assemblages into the near-surface waters. Myctophids were found in high abundance across all oceanographic features and bathymetric zones. The evidence of selective entrainment of coastal larval fish into the near-surface waters of a cyclonic eddy compared with a similar anticyclonic eddy indicates a potential offshore nursery ground.
Matis, PA, Figueira, WF, Suthers, IM, Humphries, J, Miskiewicz, A, Coleman, RA, Kelaher, BP & Taylor, MD 2014, 'Cyclonic entrainment? The ichthyoplankton attributes of three major water mass types generated by the separation of the East Australian Current', ICES Journal of Marine Science, vol. 71, no. 7, pp. 1696-1705.
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