Establishing length-at-age references in the red mullet, Mullus barbatus L. 1758 (Pisces, Mullidae), a case study for growth assessments in the Mediterranean Geographical Sub-Areas (GSA)
Length at age data are a fundamental tool for the assessment of exploited fish populations, their use requiring the identification of the ‘unit stock’. At the present, however, the spatial reference for stock assessment in the Mediterranean Sea is based on a grid of 30 arbitrary Geographical Sub Areas (GSA). Since older data rarely respect the GSA borders, the authors propose to reconstruct the historical data within a common frame and to assess a single reference length at age, together with the corresponding von Bertalanffy growth parameters, to be used as a broad benchmark for analyses inter and intra GSAs. This approach was tested using, as a case study, the red mullet (Mullus barbatus L. 1758), one of the most investigated fish of the whole Mediterranean basin. Published and grey literature was browsed, to get direct and/or indirect length at age estimations. To establish a common baseline and maximize the use of partial information, a vBGF (L∞, total length in mm, and Ky-1) was fitted to length at age data whenever possible. 56 Mediterranean sets were utilized; an overall reference growth line was estimated by sex, discussing its adequacy to the life traits of the species.