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Geolocation of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) movements in the Gulf of Maine using tidal information

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Information derived from archival tags (digital storage tags, DSTs) were used to backtrack the migration of 11 tagged Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) during 2001 in Massachusetts Bay, the Gulf of Maine, and Georges Bank. The DST tags continuously recorded time, temperature and depth. To geolocate fish positions during its time at large, we first extracted the tidal signal from the pressure recordings on the DST tags, and then compared the resulting data to data predicted with a Massachusetts Bay tidal model that provided us with geographical coordinates at a given date and time. Using least-squares criteria within an estimated geographical region of confidence that was constrained by biological and statistical information (e.g. swimming speed, known release and recapture location, and bottom depth) we were able to geolocate the fish. The resultant geolocated migration tracks indicate a large degree of movement of Atlantic cod in the region and an elevated importance of the Great South Channel (GSC) migration corridor between Massachusetts Bay and the western Georges Bank and Nantucket Shoals region. This observation contrasts strongly with inferences of limited movements by Atlantic cod based on conventional tag recapture methods (mean of 1200 km traveled versus 44 km traveled as measured by conventional tagging and geolocation, respectively). This study demonstrates that geolocation methodologies applied to archival tag studies hold great promise of becoming an important new tool for fisheries managers to quantify the movements of fishes. It also points out the need for greater collaboration between fisheries scientists and oceanographers, and particularly for the development of improved tidal models to cover stock regions more accurately and with higher precision.

Keywords: archival tags; cod; geolocation; migration; tagging; tidal models

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST), University of Massachusetts (UMass), Dartmouth, MA, USA 2: Danish Institute of Fisheries Research (DIFRES), Department of Marine Fisheries, Carlottenlund, Denmark

Publication date: 2007-07-01

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