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Environmental conditions influencing the larval fish assemblage during summer in the Gulf of Gabes (Tunisia: South central Mediterranean)

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W. K. KOCHED, F. ALEMANY, S. BEN ISMAIL, R. BENMESSAOUD, Α. HATTOUR, A. GARCIA
W. K. KOCHED, F. ALEMANY, S. BEN ISMAIL, R. BENMESSAOUD, Α. HATTOUR, A. GARCIA

Abstract


An oceanographic survey was carried out during the summer of 2009, from June 25 to July 3 in the Gulf of Gabes. The study area is characterized by a wide continental shelf.

A plankton sampling scheme was carried out to study the structure of the larval fish assemblages that characterizes the surface mixed layer, and to assess the influence of the environmental parameters on their spatial distribution.

A total of 36 taxa were identified, 3 classified to the level of genus, 5 to family and 28 to species. The majority of identified fish larvae belonged to demersal species, mainly picarel Spicara smaris (23.76% of the total larval fish abundance), followed by red mullet Mullus barbatus (14.92%) and several species of the Sparidae family (9.15%). Small pelagic species as Sardinella Sardinella aurita and European anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus were also abundant (27.75 %) and dominated the fish larvae community in offshore stations. Five large pelagic species were found among the larvae, including bullet tuna Auxis rochei, Atlantic black skipjack Euthynnus alletteratus, albacore Thunnus alalunga, swordfish Xiphias gladius and the highly migratory Atlantic bluefin tuna Thunnus thynnus. All these apex predator species appear in 38.5% of the sampling stations and contribute about 7.9% of the total larval catches.

The larval fish assemblage of the Gulf of Gabes is predominantly composed of neritic species in correspondence with the shallow depths of the study area. Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA) showed that larval distributions were mainly conditioned by depth. However, other factors, like hydrographic processes, play also a very important role in shaping the spatial pattern of larval fish distribution.


Keywords


Gulf of Gabes, larval fish assemblage, abiotic factors, mixed layer, Geographical distribution.

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