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FIT Research Projects: Pacific Cod maturity study

Status of Stocks
Fisheries Interaction
Research Projects
  Atka mackerel
      Tagging       Food Habits
  Beaufort Sea
  Pacific cod
      Pot study       Maturity
  Walleye pollock
      Interactions       Aleutian Coop
Cruise Reports

Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) Maturity

Knowledge of spawning aggregation processes provides valuable insight for fisheries investigations.  Important information such as spawning location, duration, and seasonality require knowledge of the gonad developmental stages of individual fish.  Investigations of these processes for Pacific cod require a quick and easily applicable tool, allowing for the large sample sizes and broad application necessary for such a wide ranging species.  A visual staging key based on the external and internal appearance of gonads can be applied inexpensively to obtain large sample sizes over a range of collection platforms.  Though easily applicable, visual staging keys may provide subjective and often inaccurate data, especially for gonads in transitional stages of development.  In this research, histological assessments will be used to verify visual keys.  Cell structural changes corresponding to advancement in gonad maturity will be identified through histological assessment and compared to gross visual changes observed in gonads. 

Sandi Neidetcher and Cod

Key development:

With minimal literature available on Pacific spawning aggregations in the Bering Sea,  FIT investigators initially employed a combination of maturity stages documented in the literature.  With continued observation of the visual changes which occur in gonad maturation during the spawning season, a more descriptive key was developed.  Histological specimens were collected along with visual staging data and are now available for comparison.  Preliminary analysis of the 2003 specimens indicates that the gross visual key is adequate in grouping advancing levels of maturity throughout the spawning season. 

Observer Project implementation:

The Fisheries Monitoring and Analysis Division (FMA) of the AFSC monitors groundfish fishing activities in the Bering Sea and provides an opportunity to collect data through fishery effort from a greater space and time range than available to FIT scientists.  Early versions of the Pacific cod maturity key were provided to  Observers assigned to various vessels and processing plants.  Observers responded positively collecting large amounts of data from a wide range of vessel and gear types. 

early perinucleus stage

Examination of classification errors:

Histological specimens have been collected during FIT cod cruises from 2003 to 2005.  Maturity stages were coded corresponding to the maturity key for specimens and many have associated photographs and written descriptions.  Processing and analysis of these specimens will allow for the fine tuning the cod maturity key, or will provide evidence needed to combine stages due to lack of clarifying structures. 



For more details on the results summarized above, see the documents below or contact Sandi Neidetcher at, or 1-206-526-4521.


Spatial and temporal patterns in Pacific cod reproductive maturity in the Bering Sea (NPRB project 618)  



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