Marine Biology

, Volume 161, Issue 3, pp 645–656 | Cite as

Movements, environmental associations, and presumed spawning locations of Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) in the northwest Atlantic determined using archival satellite pop-up tags

  • Shelley L. ArmsworthyEmail author
  • M. Kurtis Trzcinski
  • Steven E. Campana
Original Paper


Large Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) off the eastern coast of Canada were tagged with pop-up satellite archival transmission tags (N = 17) to track movements, determine ambient depth and temperature, and infer spawning activity. Many halibut showed seasonal movements from deepwater slope areas in fall and winter to shallower feeding grounds on the Scotian Shelf and Grand Banks in summer. Halibut depths ranged between 0 and 1,640 m. Mean temperature of occupation was 4.7 °C. Multiple short-term vertical ascents from a consistent baseline depth, characterized as spawning rises, were identified in seven of the tagged halibut south of the Grand Banks. All presumed spawning rises occurred in multiples of 2–6 events at 2- to 9-day intervals between October and January, spanning an average vertical extent of 50–100 m at depths of about 800–1,000 m. Given the direction and velocity of the slope water currents and the duration of the pelagic stage, the calculated 300–500 km drift of the eggs and larvae would take them onto the Scotian Shelf, as well as into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Therefore, the location of the presumed spawning grounds is consistent with expectations based on migration compensation theory, the northeasterly migratory patterns of the juveniles, the relatively static distribution of the adults off southern Newfoundland, and the prevailing currents at depth.


Continental Shelf Continental Slope Diel Vertical Migration Atlantic Halibut Scotian Shelf 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was funded by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans International Governance Strategic Funding and the Atlantic Halibut Council. The authors acknowledge and appreciate the support of commercial halibut fishermen Frank Reyno and Andrew Locke for successfully deploying the tags. Warren Joyce and Anna MacDonnell provided expert technical assistance. We also thank Dave Brickman for helpful perspectives on the deepwater circulation patterns. Andrew Seitz, David Righton, and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on the manuscript.


  1. Armsworthy SL, Campana SE (2010) Age determination, bomb-radiocarbon validation and growth of Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) from the Northwest Atlantic. Environ Biol Fishes 89:279–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Block BA, Dewar H, Blackwell SB, Williams TD, Prince ED et al (2001) Migratory movements, depth preferences, and thermal biology of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Science 293:1310–1314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bowering WR (1986) The distribution, age and growth and sexual maturity of Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) in the Newfoundland and Labrador area of the Northwest Atlantic. Can Tech Rep Fish Aquat Sci 1432:34pGoogle Scholar
  4. Brickman D, Marteinsdottir G, Logemann K, Harms IH (2007) Drift probabilities for Icelandic cod larvae. ICES J Mar Sci 64:49–59Google Scholar
  5. Campana SE, Dorey A, Fowler M, Joyce W, Wang Z, Wright D (2011) Migration pathways, behavioural thermoregulation and overwintering grounds of blue sharks in the Northwest Atlantic. PLoS ONE 6(2):e16854. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016854 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. den Heyer CE, Armsworthy A, Wilson S, Wilson G, Bajona L, Bond S, Trzcinski MK (2012) Atlantic halibut all-sizes tagging program summary report for 2006 to 2011. Can Tech Rep Fish Aquat Sci 2992:vii+34pGoogle Scholar
  7. den Heyer CE, Schwarz CJ, Trzcinski MK (2013) Fishing and natural mortality rates of Atlantic halibut estimated from multiyear tagging and life history. Trans Am Fish Soc 142:690–702CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Devold F (1938) The North Atlantic halibut and net fishing. Fiskeri Dir Skr Ser Havundersr 5:1–47Google Scholar
  9. Finn RN, Ostby GC, Norberg B, Fyhn HJ (2002) In vivo oocyte hydration in Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus); proteolytic liberation of free amino acids, and ion transport, are driving forces for osmotic water influx. J Exp Biol 205:211–224Google Scholar
  10. Godø OR, Haug T (1988a) Tagging and recapture of Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) in Norwegian waters. J Cons Int Explor Mer 44:169–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Godø OR, Haug T (1988b) Tagging and recapture of Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus L.) on the continental shelves off eastern Canada, and off western and eastern Greenland. J Northwest Atl Fish Sci 8:25–31Google Scholar
  12. Han G, Loder JW, Smith PC (1999) Seasonal-mean hydrography and circulation in the Gulf of St Lawrence and on the eastern Scotian Shelf and southern Newfoundland shelves. J Phys Oceanogr 29:1279–1301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Haug T (1990) Biology of the Atlantic halibut, Hippoglossus hippoglossus (L. 1758). Adv Mar Biol 26:1–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jakupsstovu SH, Haug T (1986) Spawning of Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) in deep waters on the continental slope south west of the Faroe Islands. Frodskaparriti 34–35:76–90Google Scholar
  15. Jensen AG, Wise JP (1961) Movement of tagged halibut off New England—II. Trans Am Fish Soc 90:489–490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kanwit JK (2007) Tagging results from the 2000-2004 federal experimental fishery for Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) in the eastern Gulf of Maine. J Northwest Atl Fish Sci 38:37–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kohler AC (1964) Movements of halibut on the Nova Scotian and Grand Banks. J Fish Res Board Can 21:837–840CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Loder JW, Shore JA, Hannah CG, Petrie BD (2001) Decadal-scale hydrographic and circulation variability in the Scotia-Maine region. Deep Sea Res Part II 48:3–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Loher T (2008) Homing and summer feeding site fidelity of Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) in the Gulf of Alaska, established using satellite-transmitting archival tags. Fish Res 92:63–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Loher T, Blood CL (2009) Seasonal dispersion of Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) summering off British Columbia and the US Pacific Northwest evaluated via satellite archival tagging. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 66:1409–1422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Loher T, Seitz A (2006) Seasonal migration and environmental conditions of Pacific halibut Hippoglossus stenolepis, elucidated from pop-up archival transmitting (PAT) tags. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 317:259–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Loher T, Seitz AC (2008) Characterization of active spawning season and depth for eastern Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis), and evidence of probable skipped spawning. J Northwest Atl Fish Sci 41:23–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McCracken FD (1958) On the biology and fishery of the Canadian Atlantic halibut Hippoglossus hippoglossus L. J Fish Res Board Can 15:1269–1311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Neilson JD, Kearney JF, Perley P, Sampson H (1993) Reproductive biology of Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) in Canadian waters. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 50:551–563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pickart RS, Smethie WM (1998) Temporal evolution of the deep western boundary current where it enters the sub-tropical domain. Deep Sea Res Part I 45:1053–1083CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pickart RS, McKee TK, Torres DJ, Harrington SA (1999) Mean structure and interannual variability of the slopewater system south of Newfoundland. J Phys Oceanogr 29:2541–2558CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Robichaud D, Rose GA (2001) Multiyear homing of Atlantic cod to a spawning ground. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 58:2325–2329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Seitz AC, Norcross BL, Wilson D, Nielsen JL (2005) Identifying spawning behavior in Pacific halibut, Hippoglossus stenolepis, using electronic tags. Environ Biol Fishes 73:445–451CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 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 12:225–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sigourney DB, Ross MR, Brodziak J, Burnett J (2006) Length at age, sexual maturity and distribution of Atlantic halibut, Hippoglossus hippoglossus, off the Northeast USA. J Northwest Atl Fish Sci 36:81–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Skud BE (1977) Drift, migration, and intermingling of Pacific halibut stocks. Inter Pac Halibut Comm Sci Rep 66:42 pGoogle Scholar
  32. Stobo W, Neilson JD, Simpson P (1988) Movements of Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) in the Canadian North Atlantic: inference regarding life history. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 45:484–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Trumble RJ, Neilson JD, Bowering WR, McCaughran DA (1993) Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) and Pacific halibut (H. stenolepis) and their North American Fisheries. Can Bull Fish Aquat Sci 227:84 pGoogle Scholar
  34. Wise JP, Jensen AC (1959) Movement of tagged halibut off New England. Trans Am Fish Soc 88:357–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shelley L. Armsworthy
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. Kurtis Trzcinski
    • 1
  • Steven E. Campana
    • 1
  1. 1.Bedford Institute of OceanographyFisheries and Oceans CanadaDartmouthCanada

Personalised recommendations