This study examines the potential use of otolith weight as a proxy for age in the lethrinid Lethrinus mahsena from different sites in the tropical Indian Ocean: the banks of Seychelles, Mauritius and British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT, Chagos Archipelago). The reliability of age–frequency distributions and individual ages estimated using otolith weight–age relationships was examined through comparison with those estimated through the standard method of ageing using otolith increments. Two other methods for estimating age–frequencies using age-slicing via an estimated growth curve were also examined; these used growth curves estimated by a length-based method (ELEFAN), or by fitting directly to length-at-age data (an ‘age-based’ method). Age-slicing using length-based growth parameters failed to produce reliable age–frequencies, due to inaccuracies in the growth parameter estimates. The use of age-based growth parameter estimates improved the results of age-slicing, however, age–frequencies remained significantly different from those obtained from ageing using otolith increments in two locations. The use of otolith weight–age relationships resulted in estimated age–frequency distributions that in all locations were not significantly different from those assessed through otolith increment counts. In contrast, L. mahsena otolith weight–age relationships could not be used to estimate individual ages accurately, due to the level of overlap in otolith weight between age classes. Where otolith increments are routinely used to age commercial fish species, the fact that otolith weight–age relationships could not be used to age individuals accurately may limit its application. However, where routine ageing of individuals through otolith increments is considered impractical, for instance because of its cost, the use of otolith weight–age relationships to derive catch age–frequencies represents a viable alternative approach. With this in mind, this study has also demonstrated that there is the potential to use otolith weight–age relationships for five other species caught around the Seychelles, following the validation of their otolith increments.
Pilling, G.M.; Grandcourt, E.M.; Kirkwood, G.P. The utility of otolith weight as a predictor of age in the emperor Lethrinus mahsena and other tropical fish species. Fisheries Research (2003) 60 (2-3) 493-506. [DOI: 10.1016/S0165-7836(02)00087-5]