Reproductive strategies and seasonal changes in the somatic indices of seven small-bodied fishes in Atlantic Canada in relation to study design for environmental effects monitoring
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Small-bodied fishes are more commonly being used in environmental effects monitoring (EEM) studies. There is a lack of understanding of the biological characteristics of many small-bodied species, which hinders study designs for monitoring studies. For example, 72% of fish population surveys in Canada's EEM program for pulp and paper mills that used small-bodied fishes were conducted outside of the reproductive period of the species. This resulted in an inadequate assessment of the EEM program's primary effect endpoint (reproduction) for these studies. The present study examined seasonal changes in liver size, gonad size, and condition in seven freshwater and estuarine small-bodied fishes in Atlantic Canada. These data were used to examine differences in reproductive strategies and patterns of energy storage among species. Female gonadal recrudescence in all seven species began primarily in the 2-month period in the spring before spawning. Male gonadal development was concurrent with females in five species; however, gonadal recrudescence began in the fall in male three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) and slimy sculpin (Cottus cognatus). The spawning period for each species was estimated from the decline in relative ovary size after its seasonal maximum value in spring. The duration of the spawning period reflected the reproductive strategy (single vs multiple spawning) of the species. Optimal sampling periods to assess reproductive impacts in each species were determined based on seasonal changes in ovary size and were identified to be during the prespawning period when gonads are developing and variability in relative gonad size is at a minimum.
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