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Age, growth, maturity, and mortality of the Alaska skate, Bathyraja parmifera, in the eastern Bering Sea

Matta, Mary Elizabeth, Gunderson, Donald R.
Environmental biology of fishes 2007 v.80 no.2-3 pp. 309-323
Bathyraja, age determination, biomass, bycatch, demersal fish, females, integument, life history, longevity, males, models, mortality, surveys, Alaska, Bering Sea
The Alaska skate, Bathyraja parmifera, is the most abundant species of skate on the eastern Bering Sea shelf, accounting for over 90% of total skate biomass. However, little is known regarding the life history of this species despite its common occurrence as bycatch in several Bering Sea fisheries. This is the first study to focus on the age and growth of B. parmifera. From 2003 to 2005, more than one thousand specimens were collected by fisheries observers and on scientific groundfish surveys. Annual banding patterns in more than 500 thin sections of vertebral centra were examined for age determination. Caudal thorns were tested as a potentially non-lethal ageing structure. Annual band pair deposition was verified through edge and marginal increment analyses. A three-parameter von Bertalanffy growth function and a Gompertz growth function were fit to observed length-at-age data. Both models provided significant fits, although the Gompertz function best described the overall pattern of growth in both males and females, based upon statistical criteria and parameter estimates. Age and size at 50% maturity were 9 years and 92 cm TL for males and 10 years and 93 cm TL for females. The maximum observed ages for males and females were 15 years and 17 years, respectively. Estimates of natural mortality (M) ranged from 0.14 to 0.28, and were based on published relationships between M and longevity, age at maturity, and the von Bertalanffy growth coefficient. Due to these life history characteristics and a lack of long-term species-specific stock data, a conservative management approach would be appropriate for B. parmifera.