High-resolution otolith elemental signatures in eteline snappers from valuable deepwater tropical fisheries

Tiffany Lorraine Sih, Ashley John Williams, Yi Hu, Michael John Kingsford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Marine resources are often shared among countries, with some fish stocks straddling multiple Exclusive Economic Zones, therefore understanding the structure of populations is important for the effective management of fish stocks. Otolith chemical analyses could discriminate among populations based on differences in the chemical composition of otoliths. We used otoliths from two deepwater snappers (flame snapper Etelis coruscans and ruby snapper Etelis boweni) to examine the evidence for population structure across six Pacific Island countries using solution-based inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) for otolith core and whole otolith samples and laser ablation ICP-MS (LA-ICP-MS) for core and edge areas of a cross-sectioned otolith. The inter-species comparison of these methods is important as the two species are often managed under the same regulations. For both species, the two methods demonstrated separation among the locations sampled with high classification accuracy. Smaller laser ablation spot size gave greater temporal resolution over the life-history transect. Comparing the early life-history section of the otoliths (i.e., the core), one interpretation is that young fish experienced more uniform environments in the open ocean as larvae than adults, as the elemental fingerprints had greater overlap among multiple locations. LA-ICP-MS methods had some advantages over solution-based ICP-MS and generally better discrimination for the trace elements investigated. There were substantial differences between species, but both methods suggested nonmixing populations at the regional scale. Otolith chemistry can be an effective tool in discriminating variation for deepwater marine species in multispecies fisheries, and edge measurements from LA-ICP-MS provided the greatest resolution. Although caution should be taken in interpreting the results from relatively small samples sizes, otolith chemical analyses could be useful at these spatial scales to investigate population structure. This information on separate or overlapping populations could be used in future regional fishery management plans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1475-1496
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Fish Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • deepwater fisheries
  • Lutjanidae
  • otolith chemistry
  • Pacific islands
  • stock structure
  • trace element ICP-MS

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