Why is age determination of Baltic cod (Gadus morhua) so difficult?

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The aim of this study was to evaluate the consistency of three methods for assigning annuli in adult Baltic cod otoliths. The methods examined were (i) daily increment patterns, (ii) opacity profiles, and (iii) traditional age reading. Frequency distributions of the distance from the nucleus to the different zones showed that the first annulus of traditional age reading missed the first zone of both increment and opacity methods, but overlapped with the second zone identified by these methods. This pattern did not continue over subsequent zones. Frequency distributions of increment patterns were similar to opacity patterns. However, within individual fish, the co-occurrence of overlap between the two patterns was random. In cases where there was overlap, translucent zone formation started just before the disappearance of visible increments. Overlap in 1 year did not necessarily lead to a consistent pattern the following year, and overlap was not influenced by sex or fish size. The results suggest that otolith opacity in Baltic cod is not associated with seasonal patterns in daily increment structure and that traditional age determination based on otolith opacity yields highly uncertain estimates of age.
Original languageEnglish
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1198-1205
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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