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Development of a DNA based aging technique for use in fisheries assessments. Final report, Australian Fisheries Research and Development Corporation Project 2007/033.

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Ovenden, J.R. and Godwin, R. (2011) Development of a DNA based aging technique for use in fisheries assessments. Final report, Australian Fisheries Research and Development Corporation Project 2007/033. Project Report. Molecular Fisheries Laboratory, Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Queensland.


Dataset URL: http://era.daf.qld.gov.au/1901
Publisher URL: http://www.frdc.com.au


The productivity of a fisheries resource can be quantified from estimates of recruitment, individual growth and natural and fisheries-related mortality, assuming the spatial extent of the resource has been quantified and there is minimal immigration or emigration. The sustainability of a fisheries resource is facilitated by management controls such as minimum and maximum size limits and total allowable catch. Minimum size limits are often set to allow individuals the opportunity to reproduce at least once before the chance of capture. Total allowable catches are a proportion of the population biomass, which is estimated based on known reproduction, recruitment, mortality and growth rates.

In some fisheries, however, management actions are put in place without quantification of the resource through the stock assessment process. This occurs because species-specific information, for example individual growth, may not be available. In these circumstances, management actions need to be precautionary to protect against future resource collapse, but this often means that the resource is lightly exploited. Consequently, the productivity of the resource is not fully realised.

Australia’s most valuable fisheries are invertebrate fisheries (Australian Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, 2008). For example, Australian fisheries (i.e. excluding aquaculture) production of crustaceans (largely prawns, rock lobster and crab) was 41,000 tonnes in 2006/7, worth $778 million. Production from mollusc (largely abalone, scallops, oysters and squid) fisheries was 39,000 tonnes, worth $502 million. Together, in 2006/7 crustacean and mollusc fisheries represented 58% of the total value of Australian wild fisheries production. Sustainable management of Australia’s invertebrate fisheries is frustrated by the lack of data on species-specific growth rates.

This project investigated a new method to estimate age, and hence individual growth rates, in invertebrate fisheries species. The principle behind the new aging method was that telomeres (i.e. DNA end-caps of chromosomes) get shorter as an individual gets older.

We studied commercial crustacean and molluscan species. A vertebrate fish species (silver perch, Bidyanus bidyanus) was used as a control to standardise our work against the literature. We found a clear relationship between telomere length and shell size for temperate abalone (Haliotis rubra). Further research is recommended before the method can be implemented to assist management of wildharvested abalone populations. Age needs to be substituted for shell size in the relationship and it needs to be studied for abalone from several regions. This project showed that telomere length declined with increasing age in Sydney rock oysters (Saccostrea glomerata) and was affected by regional variation.

A relationship was not apparent between telomere length and age (or size as a surrogate for age) for crustacean species (school prawns, Metapenaeus macleayi; eastern rock lobster, Sagmariasus verreauxi; southern rock lobster, Jasus edwardsii; and spanner crabs, Ranina ranina). For school prawns, there was no difference between telomere length in males and females. Further research is recommended, however, as telomeric DNA from crustaceans was difficult to analyse using the terminal restriction fragment (TRF) assay. Telomere lengths of spanner crabs and lobsters were at the upper limit of resolution of the assay used and results were affected by degradation and possible contamination of telomeric DNA.

It is possible that telomere length is an indicator of remaining lifespan in molluscan and crustacean individuals, as suggested for some vertebrate species (e.g. Monaghan, 2010). Among abalone of similar shell size and among lobster pueruli, there was evidence of individuals having significantly longer or shorter telomeres than the group average. At a population level, this may be a surrogate for estimates of future natural mortality, which may have usefulness in the management of those populations.

The method used to assay telomere length (terminal restriction fragment assay) performed adequately for most species, but it was too expensive and time-consuming to be considered a useful tool for gathering information for fisheries management. Research on alternative methods is strongly recommended.

Item Type:Monograph (Project Report)
Funders:Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. (DEEDI), Australian Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC)
Corporate Creators:Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), Australian Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Fisheries Queensland, James Cook University, Fisheries Western Australia, Northern Territory Department of Regional Development, Primary Industries, Fisheries & Resources, University of Queensland
Projects:Development of a DNA based aging technique for use in fisheries assessments. Final report, Australian Fisheries Research and Development Corporation Project 2007/033.
Business groups:Fisheries Queensland
Additional Information:© Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and The State of Queensland, Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation 2011. Copyright protects this publication. Except for purposes permitted by the Copyright Act 1968, reproduction by whatever means is prohibited without prior written permission of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Enquiries should be directed to https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/website-information/copyright or telephone the Business Information Centre on 13 25 23 (Queensland residents).
Keywords:Final report ; Telomere; age and growth; terminal restriction fragment assay; Sydney rock oysters; abalone; spanner crabs; school Prawns; rock lobster; silver perch; fisheries stock assessment.
Subjects:Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > By region or country > Australia
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery research
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Shellfish fisheries
Live Archive:15 Apr 2011 06:41
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:48

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