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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Model-supported estimation of mortality rates in Baltic cod (Gadus morhua callarias L.) larvae: the varying impact of 'critical periods'

Rüdiger Voss1*, Hans-Harald Hinrichsen2 and Kai Wieland3

Author affiliations

1 Marine Ecology Department, Institute of Marine Sciences Kiel, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany

2 Marine Ecology Department, Institute of Marine Sciences Kiel, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany

3 Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 570, DK-3900 Nuuk, Greenland

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Citation and License

BMC Ecology 2001, 1:4  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-1-4

Published: 19 November 2001



Changes in the survival-rate during the larval phase may strongly influence the recruitment level in marine fish species. During the larval phase different 'critical periods' are discussed, e.g. the hatching period and the first-feeding period. No such information was available for the Baltic cod stock, a commercially important stock showing reproduction failure during the last years. We calculated field-based mortality rates for larval Baltic cod during these phases using basin-wide abundance estimates from two consecutive surveys. Survey information was corrected by three dimensional hydrodynamic model runs.


The corrections applied for transport were of variable impact, depending on the prevailing circulation patterns. Especially at high wind forcing scenarios, abundance estimates have the potential to be biased without accounting for transport processes. In May 1988 mortality between hatch and first feeding amounted to approximately 20% per day. Mortality rates during the onset of feeding were considerably lower with only 7% per day. In August 1991 the situation was vice versa: Extremely low mortality rates of 0.08% per day were calculated between hatch and first feeding, while the period between the onset of feeding to the state of an established feeder was more critical with mortality rates of 22% per day.


Mortality rates during the different proposed 'critical periods' were found to be highly variable. Survival rates of Baltic cod are not only influenced by a single 'critical period', but can be limited at different points during the larval phase, depending on several biotic and abiotic factors.