Chemistry to conservation: using otoliths to advance recreational and commercial fisheries management


Otolith chemistry is an effective technique for evaluating fish environmental history, but its utility in fisheries management has not been comprehensively examined. Thus, a review of otolith chemistry with emphasis on management applicability is presented. More than 1500 otolith chemistry manuscripts published from 1967 to 2015 are reviewed and descriptive case studies are used to illustrate the utility of otolith chemistry as a fisheries management tool. Otolith chemistry publications span a wide variety of topics (e.g. natal origins, habitat use, movement, stock discrimination and statistical theory) and species in freshwater and marine systems. Despite the broad distribution of manuscripts in a variety of fisheries, environmental and ecological journals, the majority of publications (83%, n = 1264) do not describe implications or applications of otolith chemistry for fisheries management. This information gap is addressed through case studies that illustrate management applications of otolith chemistry. Case studies cover numerous topics (e.g. natal origins, population connectivity, stock enhancement, transgenerational marking, pollution exposure history and invasive species management) in freshwater and marine systems using sport fishes, invasive fishes, endangered fishes and species of commercial and aquaculture importance. Otolith chemistry has diverse implications and applications for fisheries management worldwide. Collaboration among fisheries professionals from academia, government agencies and non-governmental organizations will help bridge the research-management divide and establish otolith chemistry as a fisheries management tool.

Document Type

Conference Proceeding




environmental history, habitat use, otolith chemistry, population connectivity, stock discrimination

Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Fish Biology