Age estimation and lead–radium dating of Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) in the Ross Sea

Abstract

Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) are the target of an important commercial fishery in the Southern Ocean, yet age data used for management have not been comprehensively tested for accuracy. In this study, Antarctic toothfish were aged using counts of otolith growth zones based on criteria established for Patagonian toothfish, D. eleginoides, a closely related species. To validate these ages, the radioactive disequilibrium of lead-210 and radium-226 in otolith cores was measured and used as an independent chronometer to accurately determine age across the range of fish caught in large numbers by the fishery. Growth-zone counts indicated Antarctic toothfish live to at least 39 years of age, and were in close agreement with the chronometer, validating the age estimation criteria and the accuracy of age estimates. Von Bertalanffy growth function parameters indicated Antarctic toothfish were relatively slow-growing (k = 0.111), especially in relation to their maximum size (L  = 158.9 cm).

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Acknowledgments

The lead–radium dating work with toothfishes started as an idea that was proposed by Jocelyn Douglas and Kenneth Coale of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) after a trip to Antarctica. The idea subsequently developed into a full National Science Foundation (NSF) proposal with Donna Kline, and Kenneth Coale (MLML) as a collaborative age validation project with Cynthia Jones at Old Dominion University. The full proposal was funded by National Science Foundation under project number 0232000. In addition, it is important to acknowledge the contribution of otoliths from Peter Horn of NIWA and fisheries observers in the Ross Sea. Additional funding was provided by the Project Aware Foundation. This manuscript is a refined version of a thesis chapter by Cassandra Brooks that was approved for a Masters of Marine Science degree at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.

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Correspondence to Cassandra M. Brooks.

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Brooks, C.M., Andrews, A.H., Ashford, J.R. et al. Age estimation and lead–radium dating of Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) in the Ross Sea. Polar Biol 34, 329–338 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-010-0883-z

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Keywords

  • Antarctic toothfish
  • Dissostichus mawsoni
  • Nototheniidae
  • Ross Sea
  • Age validation
  • Lead–radium dating
  • Radiometric dating