A Life History Study of Atlantic Wolffish Resolves Bias and Imprecision in Length‐ and Age‐at‐Maturity Schedules by Recognizing Abortive Maturation

Academic Article


  • AbstractStock assessments of U.S. Atlantic Wolffish Anarhichas lupus are hampered by a landings moratorium and low catches in fishery‐independent surveys. Working with the commercial fishing industry, we collected hundreds of fish to overcome a lack of regionally specific life history information. Based on ages from sectioned otoliths, Atlantic Wolffish are long lived (maximum observed age: males = 31 years, females = 29 years). A Gompertz growth model showed that Atlantic Wolffish exhibit dimorphic growth—with larger males across all ages on average. Preliminary estimates of total mortality ranged from 0.15 to 0.21 and were lower than an estimate measured at the beginning of the moratorium. Based on gonad histology, a cohort of vitellogenic oocytes emerged in mature females by April and developed group synchronously to ovulate primarily in October. Skip spawning, which accounts for nonannual spawning, was observed in 5.6% of the mature females. Accounting for abortive maturation, a physiological event that delays functional maturation, improved precision and reduced bias of maturity estimates. The resulting median length at functional maturity was 53 cm total length (95% confidence interval = 49–56 cm), and the median age was 6.7 years old (6.2–7.2 years). These estimates are smaller and younger than elsewhere in the western North Atlantic Ocean, confirming that regionally specific maturity parameters are relevant when assessing reference points of the U.S. Atlantic Wolffish fishery.
  • Authors

  • McBride, Richard S
  • Fairchild, Elizabeth
  • Press, Yvonna K
  • Elzey, Scott P
  • Adams, Charles F
  • Bentzen, Paul
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • October 2022
  • Published In

  • AFS Transactions  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)


  • 14
  • Issue

  • 5