Variability in the health status and reproductive traits of European sardine stocks in the Mediterranean. Implications for fishery management

Caballero-Huertas, Marta
Small pelagic fish play an important ecological role mainly due to their contribution in transferring energy from low to higher trophic levels. Likewise, the capture of these species is in many cases an important nutritional and economic source for many nations. In these respects, one of the most relevant pelagic species is the European sardine (Sardina pilchardus) throughout its distributional range, in the North and Central-Eastern Atlantic, from the North Sea to the Senegalese coast, including the Mediterranean Sea, in which an alarming health status of the stocks has been registered during the last decades. Despite its importance, there are still many unanswered questions that try to explain its variability in the state of health along the different areas where it is found. Furthermore, and due to the decline in captures, biomass and body condition (i.e., individual energy reservoirs) of the resource, it has been suggested that the effect of global change, overfishing, pollution or parasitism, and/or the interaction among factors could be behind it. This thesis has been enthusiastically carried out with the aim of shedding light on the current health status of the European sardine along the Mediterranean, highlighting the assessment of the state of condition (closely related to the annual reproductive cycle), as well as on determining the likely factors that shape its spatial and, potentially, temporal variability in this regard. The confluence of genetic, physiological and ecological information has been the central axis of this work, since it is essential to approach the study of this and other fishery resources from a holistic manner, especially if this information is to be applied to the field of fisheries administration and management ​
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