Sources of age determination errors for sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria)


Pearson, Donald E., and Franklin R. Shaw
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This study was undertaken to resolve problems in age determination of sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria). Aging of this species has been hampered by poor agreement (averaging less than 45%) among age readers and by differences in assigned ages of as much as 15 years. Otoliths from fish that had been injected with oxytetracycline (OTC) and that had been at liberty for known durations were used to determine why age determinations were so difficult and to help determine the correct aging procedure. All fish were sampled from Oregon southwards, which represents the southern part of their range. The otoliths were examined with the aid of image processing. Some fish showed little or no growth on the otolith after eight months at liberty, whereas otoliths from other fish grew substantially. Some fish lay down two prominent hyaline zones within a single year, one in the summer and one in the winter. We classified the otoliths by morphological type and found that certain types are more likely to lay down multiple hyaline zones and other types are likely to lay down little or no zones. This finding suggests that some improvement could be achieved by detailed knowledge of the growth characteristics of the different types. This study suggests that it may not be possible to obtain reliable ages from sablefish otoliths. At the very least, more studies will be required to understand the growth of sablefish otoliths.