Delineation of stock structure is important for understanding the ecology and management of many fish populations, particularly those with wide-ranging distributions and high levels of harvest. Southern flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma) is a popular commercial and recreational species along the southeast Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico, USA. Recent studies have provided genetic and otolith morphology evidence that the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean stocks differ. Using age and growth data from four states (Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, and North Carolina) we expanded upon the traditional von Bertalanffy model in order to compare growth rates of putative geographic stocks of southern flounder. We improved the model fitting process by adding a hierarchical Bayesian framework to allow each parameter to vary spatially or temporally as a random effect, as well as log transforming the three model parameters (L∞, K, andt0). Multiple comparisons of parameters showed that growth rates varied (even within states) for females, but less for males. Growth rates were also consistent through time, when long-term data were available. Since within-basin populations are thought to be genetically well-mixed, our results suggest that consistent small-scale environmental conditions (i.e., within estuaries) likely drive growth rates and should be considered when developing broader scale management plans.
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