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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 317:259-271 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps317259

Seasonal migration and environmental conditions of Pacific halibut Hippoglossus stenolepis, elucidated from pop-up archival transmitting (PAT) tags

Timothy Loher1,*, Andy Seitz2

1International Pacific Halibut Commission, PO Box 95009 Seattle, Washington 98145, USA
2US Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center, 1011 East Tudor Road, MS 701, Anchorage, Alaska 99503, USA

ABSTRACT: Pop-up archival transmitting (PAT) tags were used to study the fall migration of halibut in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). We tagged 6 Pacific halibut Hippoglossus stenolepis on summer feeding grounds in the eastern GOA and another 6 in the western GOA from June 13 to August 6, 2002. The tags were programed to be released from the fish on January 15, 2003, at the height of the winter spawning season: 10 tags successfully detached, transmitted archived environmental data (depth and temperature), and generated accurate latitude–longitude coordinates shortly after pop-up; 2 tags deployed off SE Alaska were lost. The tags revealed that 6 fish had moved a considerable distance (>200 km) between tagging and pop-up, and all of these had moved northward to some extent. The longest of the observed migrations was from the southern Alaska Peninsula to Yakutat Bay, a linear displacement of 1153 km; 4 fish showed little evidence of geographic displacement, exhibiting migrations that ranged only from 30 to 69 km. Although 2 fish had moved inshore by the end of the tagging period, all other fish had moved offshore regardless of their overall migration distance. The precise timing of offshore movements varied, beginning as early as August and as late as January. These observations generally corroborate conventional tagging, indicating migration of halibut toward winter spawning grounds in the northern GOA, and movement of fish to deep water in fall. However, no single stereotypic migration behavior was apparent, and a variety of vertical movement patterns and temperature profiles were observed. Halibut spent most time in waters of 5 to 7°C, but experienced temperatures ranging from 2.6 to 11.6°C. Depth observations ranged from 0 to 736 m, with summertime activity concentrated in depths from 0 to 400 m, and halibut that exhibited offshore movement were typically observed at 300 to 700 m by mid-winter. Vertical movement (short-period changes in depth) varied among fish and over time, with some fish displaying little vertical activity, others displaying short periods of activity, and still others displaying considerable activity throughout their time at liberty.

KEY WORDS: Pacific halibut · Hippoglossus stenolepis · Gulf of Alaska · Seasonal migration · Behavior · Archival tags

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