Marine Biology

, 163:240 | Cite as

Can pathogens alter the population dynamics of sardine in the NW Mediterranean?

  • Elisabeth Van Beveren
  • Nicolas Keck
  • Jean-Marc Fromentin
  • Stéphanie Laurence
  • Hélène Boulet
  • Sophie Labrut
  • Marine Baud
  • Laurent Bigarré
  • Pablo Brosset
  • Claire SarauxEmail author
Original paper


Sardine populations worldwide can fluctuate drastically over short time periods, in terms of both biomass and biological characteristics. Fluctuations might be amplified by pathogens, but such hypotheses have never been considered in the absence of clear macroscopic symptoms. In the Gulf of Lions (NW Mediterranean), an enduring severe decrease in sardine (Sardina pilchardus) size, condition and age has been observed since 2008, resulting in a strong decline in landings. This situation might have been caused or aggravated by diseases, especially as other drivers such as fisheries are not expected to be important. Therefore, we developed and performed a general veterinary study, aimed at detecting a wide range of potential pathogens, including parasites, viruses and bacteria. We explored which infectious agents are most likely to produce a causal relationship with sardine health, important information for future infection experiments. Among about 1300 sardines sampled during June 2014–July 2015, microscopic parasites (often trematodes and coccidians) and bacteria Tenacibaculum and Vibrio spp. were found. However, no clear damage to tissue was observed and there was generally no link between the agents’ presence and host size or condition, so that no strong indications of pathogenicity were present. Nonetheless, 54 % of the sardines analysed in 2015 had elevated quantities of melano-macrophage centres (macrophage aggregates), indicating stress on the fish that might potentially be related to starvation and/or pollution.


Vibrio Fish Condition Sardina Pilchardus Sardine Population Lean Fish 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to acknowledge J.-F. Bernardet (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique) for the characterisation of Tenacibaculum, J.-C. Raymond (Comité National des Pêches Maritimes et des Elevages Marins) for his useful comments on the results and the manuscript and D. Duplisea (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) for the thorough language editing. We also thank the captain and the crew of the RV “L’Europe” as well as all the scientists on board for their assistance during the PELMED surveys. PELMED surveys are cofinanced by Europe through the Data Collection Framework. Our gratitude is extended as well to the MEDITS team and the fishermen who provided us with sardine samples. We would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers, whose suggestions greatly improved the manuscript. This work is a part of the programme EcoPelGol (Study of the Pelagic ecosystem in the Gulf of Lions), financed by France Filière Pêche (FFP).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial interests or conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

227_2016_3015_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (311 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 311 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisabeth Van Beveren
    • 1
  • Nicolas Keck
    • 2
  • Jean-Marc Fromentin
    • 1
  • Stéphanie Laurence
    • 2
  • Hélène Boulet
    • 2
  • Sophie Labrut
    • 3
  • Marine Baud
    • 4
  • Laurent Bigarré
    • 4
  • Pablo Brosset
    • 1
    • 5
  • Claire Saraux
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.IFREMER (Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la MER)UMR MARBECSète CedexFrance
  2. 2.Conseil Départemental de l’HéraultLaboratoire Départemental VétérinaireMontpellier 2France
  3. 3.L’Université Nantes Angers Le Mans (LUNAM), Oniris, Nantes-Atlantic National College of Veterinary Medicine, Food Science and Engineering, Laboratoire d’Histopathologie AnimaleNantesFrance
  4. 4.ANSES, Laboratoire de Ploufragan-PlouzanéPlouzanéFrance
  5. 5.Université Montpellier, UMR MARBECSète CedexFrance

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