Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Jason D. Stockwell


Pelagic forage fishes play critical roles in productive marine food webs by providing a link between zooplankton and piscivores and transferring energy from feeding grounds to other ecosystems. The amount of energy moved to higher trophic levels or new systems is directly linked to the consumption rate of pelagic forage fishes. In the Gulf of Maine, Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) is the dominant forage fish; the purpose of this study is to determine their specific consumption rate (g prey/g fish/day). Using fish collected in autumn 2012 and spring 2013, we applied a mercury mass-balance model to estimate individual and population consumption of Atlantic herring in the Gulf of Maine. Our results suggest that the specific consumption rate increases from age 1.5 until age 6 (years) and then asymptotes. These estimates were contradictory to much of what exists in the literature; for most fishes, specific consumption estimates decrease with age and overall are much lower than our estimates. We looked further into our results to explore the underlying cause of the increase in specific consumption rate. We combined the mercury mass-balance model with a Wisconsin (WI) bioenergetics model and ran several simulations adjusting the most sensitive factors in each--prey mercury in the former and activity in the latter. The results of our simulations showed that an increase in activity relative to age and mass can best explain the increase in the consumption rate of Adult herring. This suggests that an ontogenetic shift to migration in adult Atlantic herring results in increased energy demand with age, and ultimately increased consumption.



Number of Pages

56 p.