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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 635:89-103 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13219

A decade of monitoring Atlantic cod Gadus morhua spawning aggregations in Massachusetts Bay using passive acoustics

Paul E. Caiger1,2,*, Micah J. Dean3, Annamaria I. DeAngelis1,4, Leila T. Hatch5, Aaron N. Rice6, Jenni A. Stanley1,2, Chris Tholke1, Douglas R. Zemeckis7, Sofie M. Van Parijs4

1Integrated Statistics, under contract to the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 166 Water St, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
2Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 266 Woods Hole Rd, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
3Annisquam River Marine Fisheries Field Station, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, 30 Emerson Avenue, Gloucester, MA 01930, USA
4Northeast Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 166 Water Street, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
5Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 175 Edward Foster Rd, Scituate, MA 02066, USA
6Bioacoustics Research Program, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, 159 Sapsucker Woods Rd, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA
7Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 1623 Whitesville Road, Toms River, NJ 08755, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Atlantic cod Gadus morhua populations in the northeast USA have failed to recover since major declines in the 1970s and 1990s. To rebuild these stocks, managers need reliable information on spawning dynamics in order to design and implement control measures; discovering cost-effective and non-invasive monitoring techniques is also favorable. Atlantic cod form dense, site-fidelic spawning aggregations during which they vocalize, permitting acoustic detection of their presence at such times. The objective of this study was to detect spawning activity of Atlantic cod using multiple fixed-station passive acoustic recorders to sample across Massachusetts Bay during the winter spawning period. A generalized linear modeling approach was used to investigate spatio-temporal trends of cod vocalizing over 10 consecutive winter spawning seasons (2007-2016), the longest such timeline of any passive acoustic monitoring of a fish species. The vocal activity of Atlantic cod was associated with diel, lunar, and seasonal cycles, with a higher probability of occurrence at night, during the full moon, and near the end of November. Following 2009 and 2010, there was a general decline in acoustic activity. Furthermore, the northwest corner of Stellwagen Bank was identified as an important spawning location. This project demonstrated the utility of passive acoustic monitoring in determining the presence of an acoustically active fish species, and provides valuable data for informing the management of this commercially, culturally, and ecologically important species.


KEY WORDS: Atlantic cod · Passive acoustic monitoring · Gadus morhua · Massachusetts Bay · Spawning aggregations · Fisheries management


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Cite this article as: Caiger PE, Dean MJ, DeAngelis AI, Hatch LT and others (2020) A decade of monitoring Atlantic cod Gadus morhua spawning aggregations in Massachusetts Bay using passive acoustics. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 635:89-103. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13219

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