Habitat use and early winter movements by juvenile Atlantic cod in a coastal area of Newfoundland

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Abstract:

Acoustic telemetry was used to monitor the movements and landscape scale habitat use of age 2–3 year juvenile Atlantic cod Gadus morhua in Newman Sound, a coastal fjord of Newfoundland, during late autumn and early winter (24 October 1999 to 22 January 2000). Substratum, bathymetric relief and depth use were studied to determine if it differed from the pattern expected given an absence of selectivity (habitat use proportional to habitat availability). Prior to winter migrations, most Atlantic cod maintained small home ranges (0·5–33·4 ha, median = 2·1 ha) although a few individuals moved more widely. No relationship between total length (LT) and home range size was detected. In Inner Newman Sound, Atlantic cod occupied depths of 10–29 m more than expected given availability, while depths of 0–9 and 40–59 m were underutilized. No significant relationship between depth and LT was detected. Areas of medium (5–10%) or high (>10%) bathymetric relief and boulder or kelp habitats were used significantly more than expected given the availability of these habitats. Sand and eelgrass substrata were underutilized given availability, although many Atlantic cod used sandy‐bottomed areas to some degree. Flexibility in habitat use by the individuals that were studied suggested reduced predation risk relative to younger conspecifics. Winter migrations to deeper water beyond Newman Sound began in mid‐November, coinciding with the disappearance of the thermocline, and continued until 27 December. Approximately 30% of monitored individuals did not migrate and maintained their home ranges into the winter season. No significant differences in LT between migrating and resident groups were detected, however, the condition of migrating fish was significantly higher than in resident fish. This finding supports the theory that feeding history plays a role in the decision to undertake migration.

Keywords: Atlantic cod; habitat use; home range; juvenile; migration; telemetry

Document Type: Regular Paper

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8649.2004.00331.x

Affiliations: 1: Terra Nova National Park of Canada, gen. del., Glovertown, NL, A0G 2L0, Canada, 2: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, P. O. Box 5667, St John's NL, A1C 5X1, Canada and 3: Centre for Aquaculture and the Environment (CAE), 123-2357 Main Mall, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada

Publication date: March 1, 2004

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