Anchovy egg and larval distribution in relation to biological and physical oceanography in the Strait of Sicily
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The European Anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus, Linnaeus, 1758) represents one of the most important fishery resources in some areas of the Mediterranean. This short-lived, small pelagic fish is characterized by large interannual fluctuations, probably as a result of environmental variability. As part of the European Project Med 98-070, the main aim of which was the study of the anchovy population in the Strait of Sicily, icthyoplankton surveys were carried out between 1999 and 2001, during the peak spawning season for anchovy. Present work reports the relationship between meso-zooplankton biomass and the abundance of anchovy eggs and larvae in the Strait of Sicily. Data on anchovy egg abundance showed that the main spawning area was located in the north-western region of the study area. The branch of the Atlantic Ionian Stream, running parallel to the southern Sicilian coast, acts as a transport mechanism for anchovy eggs and larvae towards the southernmost end of the island, off Cape Passero. Observed distributions were largely consistent with local hydrographic features, which allow larvae to be retained in areas providing the necessary feeding conditions for recruitment success.
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