Temporal, environmental, and demographic correlates of Ichthyophonus sp. infections in mature Pacific herring populations

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Causes of population collapse and failed recovery often remain enigmatic in marine forage fish like Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) that experience dramatic population oscillations. Diseases such as ichthyophoniasis are hypothesized to contribute to these declines, but lack of long-term datasets frequently prevents inference. Analysis of pathogen surveillance and population assessment datasets spanning 2007-2019 indicate that the age-based prevalence estimate of Ichthyophonus infection was, on average, 54% greater among a collapsed population of Pacific herring (Prince William Sound, Alaska, USA) as compared to a nearby population (Sitka Sound, Alaska, USA) that is relatively robust. During the study years, the age-based infection prevalence ranged from 14 to 44% in Prince William Sound and 5 to 33% in Sitka Sound. At both sites, the age-based infection prevalence declined over time, with an average decrease of 7% per year. Statistical analyses indicated that infection prevalence between the two populations was reduced by regional factors affecting both sites, and that these factors were independent of herring density. Infection prevalence in both populations was positively correlated with herring age and negatively correlated with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. This study demonstrates how synthesis of environmental, stock assessment, and disease assessment data can be leveraged to elucidate epidemiological trends in diseases of wild fish.




Groner, M. L., Bravo-Mendosa, E. D., Mackenzie, A. H., Gregg, J. L., Conway, C. M., Trochta, J. T., & Hershberger, P. K. (2023). Temporal, environmental, and demographic correlates of Ichthyophonus sp. infections in mature Pacific herring populations. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 80(9), 2342–2355. https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsad147

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