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Scientific information about European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) stocks in NE Atlantic is limited and a more accurate definition of the stock boundaries in the area is required to improve assessment and management advice. Here we study the connectivity and movement patterns of European sea bass in Wales (UK) using the stable isotope (δ13C and δ15N) composition of their scales. Analysis of fish scale δ13C and δ15N values in the last growing season was performed on 189 adult sea bass caught at nine coastal feeding grounds. Fish >50 cm total length (TL) caught in estuaries had very low δ13C and this is characteristic of fresh water (organic/soil) input, indicating the primary use of estuaries as feeding areas. A random forest classification model was used to test if there was a difference in δ15N and δ13C values between north, mid and south Wales and whether it was possible to correctly assign the fish to the area where it was caught. This analysis was restricted to fish of a similar size range (40-50 cm TL) caught in open coastal areas (n=156). The random forest classification model showed that about 75% of the fish could be correctly assigned to their collection region based on their isotope composition. The majority of the misclassifications of fish were fish from north Wales classifying to mid Wales and vice versa, while the majority of fish from south Wales were correctly assigned (80%). Our findings suggest that two sub-populations of sea bass in Welsh waters use separate feeding grounds (south vs. mid/north Wales), and may need separate management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-223
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Early online date21 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2016

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