Understanding the Decline and Recovery of one of the South Atlantic’s largest fisheries (Southern Blue Whiting)

Funding bodies: Fortuna Ltd.

Southern blue whiting (Micromesistius australis) is a pelagic schooling fish which can be found around the southern tip of South America (Patagonia) and in New Zealand waters.The Patagonian population has been commercially exploited since the 1970s with record landings of 258,000 tonnes in 1983 in the South Atlantic.

Following decades of continuous exploitation the fishery collapsed between 2004 and 2007. A seasonally closed area was introduced in 2010 to alleviate fishing pressure from the spawning grounds of southern blue whiting

In Falkland Island waters recent observations from fisheries observers suggest that the local fishery may be recovering. This project aims to improve our understanding of the ecology of M. australis and to use this knowledge to improve the management of this stock.

Highlights of 2016:

  • Three weeks were spent taking inventory of 18,000 pairs of otoliths collected by the Falkland Islands Fisheries Department since 1988.The age-readings for these otoliths are currently being validated. Initial results show consistent discrepancies between the original data and my own age readings for small, young fish. To investigate this further I am currently looking at daily growth rings to validate the first annual ring, which is likely where the differences are occurring. Besides validation, I also aim to use these results to look into any potential consequences of ageing errors on former management strategies.
  • Further work has included a Scientific Cruise with the Falkland Island Fisheries, one of the objectives of this cruise was to examine the distribution, biology and biomass of the commercial fish stocks, such as southern blue whiting, in Falkland Islands waters. I was able to collect current data for this species and have also started collecting ovaries for a maturity validation study.

Tom Busbridge

PhD supervisors: Dr. Paul Brickle (SAERI), Dr. Alexander Arkhipkin (Falkland Islands Fisheries Department) and Dr.Tara Marshall (University of Aberdeen)

Oct 2016 – Sept 2019
Cross-section of a southern blue whiting otolith showing 6 core ablation “spots”.
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