Health and reproduction of red mullet, Mullus barbatus, in the western Mediterranean Sea
The reproductive and general health of exploited fish stocks is an essential element of sustainable and profitable fisheries. The main purpose of this study was to assess the relationships between reproduction and two important parameters of fish health (parasitism and energy reserves) in female specimens of red mullet, Mullus barbatus, from the western Mediterranean Sea. We present new data for this species on (i) the prevalence and intensity of infection by metazoan parasites; (ii) the total lipid content in muscle and gonads as a measure of condition and (iii) fecundity and egg quality as a measure of their reproductive capacity. The results show that M. barbatus is a batch spawner with an income breeding strategy, an asynchronous development of oocytes and indeterminate fecundity. The results also indicate that the three most abundant and prevalent parasites significantly affect the condition and reproduction of M. barbatus. Specifically, the digenean, Opecoeloides furcatus, causes a reduction in the female’s energy reserves, while the nematodes, Hysterothylacium fabri and H. aduncum, produce a rise in egg production but impair egg quality. These implications of the relationships between parasitism, fish health and fish reproduction should be taken into consideration in the assessment and management of exploited species.
KeywordsEgg quality Energy reserves Fecundity Metazoan parasites Reproductive strategy
We are grateful to our colleagues at the University of Girona (Animal Biology-Ichthyology Research Group) for their collaboration in the laboratory work and, especially, to A. El Aoussimi for his helpful assistance during on-board fish sampling. Thanks are also given to the crew of the R/V Cornide de Saavedra (IEO, Spain) for technical and scientific support during the MEDITS GSA-06 trawl surveys. We also wish to extend our gratitude to R. A. Bray (NHM, London) for his kind help with the digenean identification and the Guest Editor and the anonymous referees for their helpful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of the manuscript. This study was carried out within the framework of a research project (ref. CTM2009-08602) funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, whereby D. Ferrer-Maza benefited from a FPI predoctoral fellowship (ref. BES-2010-032618). J. Lloret benefited from a “Ramón y Cajal” research contract from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness.
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