Feeding Ecology of Northeast Atlantic Mackerel, Norwegian Spring-Spawning Herring and Blue Whiting in the Norwegian Sea

Bachiller, E.; Skaret, G.; Nøttestad, L.; Slotte, A.

Plos one 11(2): E0149238


ISSN/ISBN: 1932-6203
PMID: 26895485
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0149238
Accession: 057871485

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The Norwegian spring-spawning (NSS) herring (Clupea harengus), blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou) and Northeast Atlantic (NEA) mackerel (Scomber scombrus) are extremely abundant pelagic planktivores that feed in the Norwegian Sea (NS) during spring and summer. This study investigated the feeding ecology and diet composition of these commercially important fish stocks on the basis of biological data, including an extensive set of stomach samples in combination with hydrographical data, zooplankton samples and acoustic abundance data from 12 stock monitoring surveys carried out in 2005-2010. Mackerel were absent during the spring, but had generally high feeding overlap with herring in the summer, with a diet mainly based on calanoid copepods, especially Calanus finmarchicus, as well as a similar diet width. Stomach fullness in herring diminished from spring to summer and feeding incidence was lower than that of mackerel in summer. However, stomach fullness did not differ between the two species, indicating that herring maintain an equally efficient pattern of feeding as mackerel in summer, but on a diet that is less dominated by copepods and is more reliant on larger prey. Blue whiting tended to have a low dietary overlap with mackerel and herring, with larger prey such as euphausiids and amphipods dominating, and stomach fullness and feeding incidence increasing with length. For all the species, feeding incidence increased with decreasing temperature, and for mackerel so did stomach fullness, indicating that feeding activity is highest in areas associated with colder water masses. Significant annual effects on diet composition and feeding-related variables suggested that the three species are able to adapt to different food and environmental conditions. These annual effects are likely to have an important impact on the predation pressure on different plankton groups and the carrying capacity of individual systems, and emphasise the importance of regular monitoring of pelagic fish diets.