AEI 3:135-152 (2013)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/aei00057

Evidence for ‘escape through spawning’ in large gilthead sea bream Sparus aurata reared in commercial sea-cages

Stylianos Somarakis1,*, Michail Pavlidis2, Christina Saapoglou1,2, Costas S. Tsigenopoulos1, Tim Dempster3,4

1Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), PO Box 2214, 71003 Heraklion, Crete, Greece
2Department of Biology, University of Crete, PO Box 2208, 71409, Heraklion, Crete, Greece
3Centre for Research-based Innovation in Aquaculture Technology (CREATE), SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture,
7465 Trondheim, Norway
4Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia

ABSTRACT: During the last decade, farming of species that may reproduce within marine fish farms has become more common. However, knowledge of the extent and ecological effects of reproduction of farmed fish within commercial farms is sparse. We examined whether large gilthead sea bream Sparus aurata reared in farms in Greece produced fertilized eggs that survived and dispersed into surrounding waters. Extensive histological investigation of gonads sampled from 5 different farms revealed that female sea bream cultivated beyond the size of sex reversal matured, ovulated and released eggs during the normal spawning period of the species. Annual fecundities (108000 ± 60081 eggs kg-1 of female in farms) were low relative to commercial broodstock and decreased considerably with sex ratio (i.e. with fish size in the cage). An egg-collector experiment and site-intensive ichthyoplankton study with genetic identification of sparid eggs demonstrated that sea bream eggs were spawned in farms and released to the environment. If 5-10% of the 130000 tons yr-1 production is fish of larger size, we estimate that 3.5 × 1011 to 7.0 × 1011 eggs yr-1 are released into the Mediterranean Sea. Whilst we documented low daily survival rates of fertilized eggs in the vicinity of sea-cages, our findings imply that the escape of eggs from sea bream farms may have ecological consequences, which likely depend on the sex ratio and intensity of farming within specific regions. To avoid potentially negative ecological and genetic consequences of escape through spawning, farms with large fish should not be placed close to the nursery grounds of wild sea bream, such as in coastal lagoons.


KEY WORDS: Aquaculture · Sparus aurata · Escape · Fecundity · Egg collector · Ichthyoplankton


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Cite this article as: Somarakis S, Pavlidis M, Saapoglou C, Tsigenopoulos CS, Dempster T (2013) Evidence for ‘escape through spawning’ in large gilthead sea bream Sparus aurata reared in commercial sea-cages. Aquacult Environ Interact 3:135-152. https://doi.org/10.3354/aei00057

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