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Permanent aggregations of a pelagic predator at shallow seamounts

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Abstract

The effectiveness of marine reserves for highly mobile reef fishes such as jacks and trevallies is normally assumed to be small, even though we generally lack the understanding of their long-term movement patterns. In this work, we combined the analysis of multi-year landings and underwater visual census with acoustic telemetry to investigate the long-term movement patterns (up to 4 years) of almaco jack, Seriola rivoliana, a large reef top predator, in one protected and one unprotected offshore shallow seamount in the Azores, central North Atlantic. Although the analysis of visual census and landing data suggests a pronounced seasonal pattern of occurrence, we found that tagged fish were almost continuously detected at the seamounts for up to four consecutive years. Some individuals showed a few long periods of undetection of 1–2 months in the Formigas reserve, mostly in the fall and winter. Mobility within this seamount increased during spring and summer, and geostrophic current speed was negatively correlated with detection probability. Overall, the acoustic telemetry results showed that adult almaco jacks were resident year-round, refuting the traditional view that these fish are essentially migratory and a seasonal occurrence in the Azores. Given the intrinsic vulnerability of resident fish to fishing, our results highlight the importance of protecting these sites in order to preserve these mature fish aggregations with high reproductive potential.

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Acknowledgments

We thank T. Morato, F. Cardigos, N. Serpa, M. Santos, J. Sousa, G. Graça, M. Machete, J. Botelho, and the crews of R/V “Arquipélago” and R/V “Águas Vivas” for their help with field work; F. Tempera, R. Medeiros, and G. Graça for providing data and support in the production of bathymetric maps; and J. Santos for telemetry database management. A special thank is due to R. S. Santos for stimulating discussions and for his continued support to this research. FCT/MCTES-MEC provided individual support to J.F., M.S., and P.A. (SFRH/BD/12788/2003, SFRH/BPD/66532/2009, SFRH/BD/66117/2009, SFRH/BPD/27057/2006, and Ciência 2008/POPH/QREN/FEDER/COMPETE, FRCT, M3.1.5/F/168/2012). IMAR-DOP/UAz is UI&D #531 and Associated Laboratory LARSyS funded by FCT/MEC and Azorean DRCTC (OE, FEDER/COMPETE, Pro-Convergência). This paper is a contribution to the projects MARMACII (INTERREG/05/MAC/4.2/A4), SEAMOV (PTDC/MAR/108232/2008), and MoniZEC (DRCT/0281M2.1.2/I/018/2011), and received additional funding through the FCT/MCTES and DRCT “Reequipamento” programs. Research in this study was conducted in agreement with Azorean and Portuguese laws and legal requirements for the handling of vertebrate animals.

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Correspondence to Jorge Fontes.

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Communicated by J. Houghton.

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227_2014_2423_MOESM1_ESM.tif

Proportion of valid detections of tagged almaco jack (Seriola rivoliana) by season on the deep water acoustic receiver at Formigas, from August 2008 to September 2010. Numbers on top of columns represent number of different fish (tags) detected (TIFF 2996 kb)

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Fontes, J., Schmiing, M. & Afonso, P. Permanent aggregations of a pelagic predator at shallow seamounts. Mar Biol 161, 1349–1360 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-014-2423-9

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