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Aquatic Biology

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AB 12:225-239 (2011)  -  DOI:

Dispersal and behavior of Pacific halibut Hippoglossus stenolepis in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands region

Andrew C. Seitz1,*, Timothy Loher2, Brenda L. Norcross1, Jennifer L. Nielsen3

1School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks, PO Box 757220, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-7220, USA
2International Pacific Halibut Commission, PO Box 95009, Seattle, Washington 98145-2009, USA
3US Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center, 4210 University Dr., Anchorage, Alaska 99508-4626, USA

ABSTRACT: Currently, it is assumed that eastern Pacific halibut Hippoglossus stenolepis belong to a single, fully mixed population extending from California through the Bering Sea, in which adult ­halibut disperse randomly throughout their range during their lifetime. However, we hypothesize that hali­but dispersal is more complex than currently assumed and is not spatially random. To test this hypo­thesis, we studied the seasonal dispersal and behavior of Pacific halibut in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI). Pop-up Archival Transmitting tags attached to halibut (82 to 154 cm fork length) during the summer provided no evidence that individuals moved out of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands region into the Gulf of Alaska during the mid-winter spawning season, supporting the concept that this region contains a separate spawning group of adult halibut. There was evidence for geographically localized groups of halibut along the Aleutian Island chain, as all of the individuals tagged there displayed residency, with their movements possibly impeded by tidal currents in the passes between islands. Mid-winter aggregation areas of halibut are assumed to be spawning grounds, of which 2 were previously unidentified and extend the species’ presumed spawning range ~1000 km west and ~600 km north of the nearest documented spawning area. If there are indeed  independent spawning groups of Pacific halibut in the BSAI, their dynamics may vary sufficiently from those of the Gulf of Alaska, so that specifically accounting for their relative segregation and unique ­dynamics within the larger population model will be necessary for correctly predicting how these components may respond to fishing pressure and changing environmental conditions.

KEY WORDS: Spawning component · Spawning dispersal · Pacific halibut · PSAT tag · PAT tag · Bering Sea · Aleutian Islands

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Cite this article as: Seitz AC, Loher T, Norcross BL, Nielsen JL (2011) Dispersal and behavior of Pacific halibut Hippoglossus stenolepis in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands region. Aquat Biol 12:225-239.

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