New age-determination method based on fast growth rate of Cape hake Merluccius capensis in Namibia
Namibia’s most important commercial fisheries resource, the shallow-water Cape hake Merluccius capensis, is currently assessed using statistical catch-at-age analysis. Age data obtained from otoliths constitute an important data component of this model. Recent age-validation studies of M. capensis showed that growth was previously underestimated. We investigated this new fast-growth hypothesis (FGH) by using measurements and counts of translucent zones (T1 to T14, from otolith core to edge) on two survey otolith samples covering the entire range of fish lengths. We compared three hypotheses of periodicity of otolith zone formation and show that, if all zones are counted, T2 (at 9.0 mm otolith length), T5, T8, T11 and T14 are most likely to be annuli. A conversion from the slow-growth-hypothesis (SGH, currently used) age data was calculated as: FGH age group = round (0.41[SGH age group] + 0.25), and this formula should be applied to compute and test updated catch-at-age data in a future hake stock assessment. Additional adjustment for the hake stock assessment following the FGH, such as the timing of recruitment in winter and catches in summer, should be considered in future assessments.
Keywords: age validation, annual age determination, fast-growth hypothesis, Merluccius paradoxus, otolith length, slow-growth hypothesis