Freshwater fish move vertically and horizontally through the aquatic landscape for a variety of reasons, such as to find and exploit patchy resources or to locate essential habitats (e.g., for spawning). Inherent challenges exist with the assessment of fish populations because they are moving targets. We submit that quantifying and describing the spatial ecology of fish and their habitat is an important component of freshwater fishery assessment and management. With a growing number of tools available for studying the spatial ecology of fishes (e.g., telemetry, population genetics, hydroacoustics, otolith microchemistry, stable isotope analysis), new knowledge can now be generated and incorporated into biological assessment and fishery management. For example, knowing when, where, and how to deploy assessment gears is essential to inform, refine, or calibrate assessment protocols. Such information is also useful for quantifying or avoiding bycatch of imperiled species. Knowledge of habitat connectivity and usage can identify critically important migration corridors and habitats and can be used to improve our understanding of variables that influence spatial structuring of fish populations. Similarly, demographic processes are partly driven by the behavior of fish and mediated by environmental drivers. Information on these processes is critical to the development and application of realistic population dynamics models. Collectively, biological assessment, when informed by knowledge of spatial ecology, can provide managers with the ability to understand how and when fish and their habitats may be exposed to different threats. Naturally, this knowledge helps to better evaluate or develop strategies to protect the long-term viability of fishery production. Failure to understand the spatial ecology of fishes and to incorporate spatiotemporal data can bias population assessments and forecasts and potentially lead to ineffective or counterproductive management actions.
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Cooke is supported by the Canada Research Chairs program, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and Ocean Tracking Network Canada. This work was funded in part by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission by way of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative appropriations (GL-00E23010). This paper is Contribution 18 of the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS). This is contribution 2023 of the Great Lakes Science Center. DAC was supported by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Research Program, Northern Australia Hub. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
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Cooke, S.J., Martins, E.G., Struthers, D.P. et al. A moving target—incorporating knowledge of the spatial ecology of fish into the assessment and management of freshwater fish populations. Environ Monit Assess 188, 239 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-016-5228-0
- Habitat use
- Movement ecology
- Sampling strategy
- Trophic ecology