‘Recruitment’ is a term used by researchers to describe thenatural addition o sh to a population, either by reproductionor migration. While it sometimes reers simply to young sh joining a population, in some contexts, it may instead reer tosh o legal size entering a shery.Researchers believe that dhush larvae are dispersed bycurrents and this may explain a high level o variation indhush recruitment. Water temperature and the availabilityo ood are also thought to aect spawning and survival o dhush eggs, larvae and juveniles. Much o this inormation isstill subject to ongoing research.In some years with very avourable conditions, dhushrecruitment is very successul (‘boom’ years) while in others,recruitment is lower. Researchers think that in the past 20years, there have only been a ew boom years.The variation in dhush recruitment between years is animportant consideration when managing dhush stocks. Whena lot o dhush, resulting rom a boom year, reach legal size,it can give the impression that sh stocks are ne. However i these sh – which include much o the breeding stock –are shed down, the population may struggle to recover i recruitment ollowing this ‘year class’ o sh is low.Heavy shing o dhush combined with low recruitment, islikely to put the uture o a population o dhush in jeopardy.Working out the age o sampled dhush helps researchersunderstand the ‘age structure’ o a dhush population, in otherwords, how many sh there are o dierent ages. This in turntells them whether shing is reliant on a particularly successulyear class o sh – that is, sh spawned during a certain year– or whether recruitment has also been good in other years.The ear bones o sh, called otoliths, contain a detailedrecord o their age. Each year as a sh grows, tiny white andclear bands o calcied material are laid down in the bone.Researchers extract the otoliths and cut thin sections romthem using a high-precision saw. Under magnication, thebands are counted similar to counting rings in a tree stump.This is done to thousands o sh otoliths in Department o Fisheries research laboratories each year.Researchers can also nd out about the environmentalconditions in which a sh lived by chemically analysingotoliths. Stable isotopes o oxygen and carbon enterotoliths rom the water in which the sh lived. This ‘isotopesignature’ varies between locations.
Ho od is this dhufsh?
A 33-day-old larval dhufsh measuring less than one centimetre long.Photo: Julia Shand, University o WA
The importane o ig dhuies
Dhush can live or more than 40 years, reach more than ametre in length and weigh more than 25 kilos. As with manybottom-dwelling sh they are relatively slow-growers.They also grow most quickly when they are young. Theirgrowth slows down considerably ater about 12 years, andthey reach close to their maximum size at about 20 years.Like all animals, individual dhush may be larger or smallerthan their peers at the same age.Previous research showed that dhush start to reach sexualmaturity at three to our years old, or when they were 30to 35 centimetres long. Recent research indicates thateven though dhush are reproductive at this time, emalesproduce ew eggs and do not spawn every month o thespawning season. It appears that dhush only reach their ullreproductive potential as they become older.Older emale dhush spawn more eggs, more oten andor a longer period – and thereore produce more eggs perspawning season – than younger emales. This means bigemale dhush are very important or the overall health o adhush population.
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P e r c e n t a g e o f s p a w n i n g f e m a l e s
Small (up to 50cm long)Medium (50 to 70cm long)Large (70cm or longer)
During each month o the spawning season, ewer smallemale dhufsh spawn than medium and large-sized emales.