The landing of Indian oil sardines, Sardinella longiceps Valenciennes, 1847, along the southwest coast of India is highly variable. A few physical parameters and processes correlated with sardine landing could not establish a flawless connection and explain the phenomena of interannual variability. Earlier research has indicated that the probable appearance and disappearance of sardines is an active movement in search of food and favourable conditions. But no specific study has been carried out to explain the variability of sardine catch based on chlorophyll availability on a synoptic scale. An attempt is made in this study to correlate variability in chlorophyll a with sardine landings along the waters of the southwest coast of India. We have estimated monthly averaged surface phytoplankton biomass along the waters of the southwest coast of India from the shoreline up to the 200-m isobath for 10 years from SeaWiFS ocean-colour data. This estimation is compared with the biological calendar of Indian oil sardines. The average chlorophyll a for the bloom initiation month (1998–2006) matches very well with oil sardine landings. The results imply that the concentration of chlorophyll during the bloom initiation month can be used to assess the quantity of fish that recruit into the population. Finer scale spatial variations in the chlorophyll along the coastal waters help in deciphering the migratory pattern of sardines during their active breeding phase. This study shows that 39% of interannual variability in fish landings is related to availability of chlorophyll a during the bloom initiation month.
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