Spatial distribution pattern of European hake, Merluccius merluccius (Pisces: Merlucciidae), in the Mediterranean Sea.

Merluccius merluccius distribution pattern environmental factors MEDITS Mediterranean Sea


The present study provides updated information on the occurrence, abundance and biomass distribution patterns and length frequencies of Merluccius merluccius in the Mediterranean Sea, by analysing a time series of data from the Mediterranean International Trawl Surveys (MEDITS) from 1994 to 2015. The highest values of abundance and biomass were observed in the Sardinian Seas. The use of a generalized additive model, in which standardized biomass indices (kg km–2) were analysed as a function of environmental variables, explained how ecological factors could affect the spatio-temporal distribution of European hake biomass in the basin. High biomass levels predicted by the model were observed especially at 200 m depth and between 14°C and 18°C, highlighting the preference of the species for colder waters. A strong reduction of biomass was observed since the year 2009, probably due to the strengthening of the seasonal thermocline that had greatly reduced the availability of food. The general decrease in biomass of several stocks of anchovy and sardine, preys of European hake, might be indirectly connected to the decreasing biomass detected in the present study. The length analysis shows median values lower than 200 mm total length of most of the investigated areas.