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Regional Recruitment Dynamics and Seasonal Ecology of Juvenile Bluefish (Pomatomus Saltatrix)

Recruitment in fishes, defined as the survival of a cohort through the first year of life, can be highly variable and affected by small changes in biological and physical factors. Much of the historical focus into the sources of recruitment variability has concentrated on the larval stage, but recent attention has shifted to the relatively longer juvenile period. Spawning behavior that results in the production of multiple cohorts over time and space within a year-class may dampen recruitment variability by decreasing natural mortality risk. The bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) is a migratory marine species that produces multiple cohorts of offspring during annual spawning migrations. Juvenile bluefish are among the fastest growing fish in the ocean. Consequently, bluefish is one of the few species that both mature and enter the fishery shortly after its first birthday, so recruitment success may be particularly critical in determining year-class strength. The following dissertation explores the factors that influence recruitment potential of bluefish. The first chapter provides a brief history of the study of recruitment in fisheries science and an introduction to bluefish life history. Chapter two investigates the interaction between the juvenile bluefish cohorts in the Hudson River estuary prior to the autumn migration. Chapter three presents the discovery of the northern Florida coastal ocean as an essential habitat to juvenile bluefish during the winter. The final chapter provides a summary of the main conclusions from chapters two and three.
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