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Identifying spawning behavior in Pacific halibut, Hippoglossus stenolepis, using electronic tags

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Identifying spawning behavior in Pacific halibut, Hippoglossus stenolepis, is particularly challenging because they occupy a deep, remote environment during the spawning season. To identify spawning events, a method is needed in which direct observation by humans is not employed. Spawning behavior of seven other flatfish, species has been directly observed in their natural environment by investigators using SCUBA. All of these flatfish species display almost identical spawning behavior that follows a routine. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that this spawning behavior occurs in other flatfish species, including Pacific halibut. As part of a larger study, we recaptured two Pacific halibut on which Pop-up Archival Transmitting (PAT) tags had been attached during the winter spawning season. Because the tags were physically retrieved, we were able to collect minute-by-minute depth records for 135 and 155 days. We used these depth data to tentatively identify spawning events. On seven separate occasions between 20 January 2001 and 9 February 2001, one fish displayed a conspicuous routine only seen during the spawning season of Pacific halibut and the routine parallels the actions of other spawning flatfish directly observed by humans using SCUBA. Therefore, we propose this routine represents spawning behavior in Pacific halibut. The second tagged fish did not display the conspicuous routine, thus challenging the assumption that Pacific halibut are annual spawners. PAT tags may prove to be a useful tool for identifying spawning events of Pacific halibut, and that knowledge may be used for improved management in the future.

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Seitz, A.C., Norcross, B.L., Wilson, D. et al. Identifying spawning behavior in Pacific halibut, Hippoglossus stenolepis, using electronic tags. Environ Biol Fish 73, 445–451 (2005).

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