• The reproductive biology of yelloweye rockfish (Sebastes ruberrimus) in Prince William Sound and the Northern Gulf of Alaska

      Arthur, Donald E.; Falke, Jeffrey; Beaudreau, Anne; Sutton, Trent; Blain-Roth, Brittany (2020-12)
      Over the last half century, Yelloweye Rockfish Sebastes ruberrimus have experienced dramatic declines along the West Coast of the United States and British Columbia. Efforts have been made throughout the species' range to rebuild and sustainably manage stocks, including the introduction of a Statewide Rockfish Initiative by the State of Alaska, which intends to develop management strategies for Yelloweye Rockfish in the Gulf of Alaska. To support this effort and address information gaps in Yelloweye Rockfish reproductive biology throughout their range, I estimated important reproductive parameters and life history information for Yelloweye Rockfish in Prince William Sound and the Northern Gulf of Alaska, Alaska, that included maturity, parturition timing, skip spawning, and fecundity relationships. I identified that ages-at-50% maturity (A50) for males and females were similar (A50 = 15 years and A50 = 16, respectively), but males reached full maturity (A95) earlier than females (male A95 = 19 years and female A95 = 31 years). Female Yelloweye Rockfish fork length-at-50% and 95% maturity (L50 and L95) was greater in the Northern Gulf of Alaska (L50 = 46.7 cm and L95 = 55.8 cm) than in Prince William Sound (L50 = 41.1 cm and L95 = 50.2 cm). Similarly, male L50 and L95 was greater in the Northern Gulf of Alaska (L50 = 44.0 cm and L95 = 49.2 cm) relative to Prince William Sound (L50 = 40.8 cm and L95 = 46.0 cm), and males matured at a smaller size than females. Female L50 was consistent with data from southern populations, but A50 was younger than predicted based on a latitudinal trend, indicating that Yelloweye Rockfish in this region may experience greater than expected growth rates. Yelloweye Rockfish underwent parturition between May and August and peaked in June and July, and parturition timing was earlier for larger and older females. I documented that female Yelloweye Rockfish skip-spawned at a rate of 9.8%. Skip spawning rate was associated with fork length and peaked at sizes between 40.2 cm and 52.3 cm; the peak in stock reproductive potential is shifted toward larger females in response to skip spawning. I conducted egg and larvae counting in an image-analysis software, which was more than four times faster than manual counting and was equally accurate and precise. Yelloweye Rockfish fecundity scaled hyperallometrically with FL and relative fecundity increased with length, indicating that spawning stock biomass may not be proportional to total egg production. Combining these results, I found that ignoring the hyperallometric fecundity relationship and skip spawning could overestimate reproductive potential by as much as 66% and 45% for Prince William Sound and the Northern Gulf of Alaska, respectively. The results of this study will improve the estimates of stock-recruitment dynamics and can be readily integrated into a stock assessment that will guide the sustainable management of Yelloweye Rockfish in Prince William Sound and the Northern Gulf of Alaska.