Dolphinfish movements in the Eastern Pacific Ocean of Mexico using conventional and electronic tags

Christopher R. Perle, Stephanie Snyder, Wessley Merten, Melinda Simmons, Justina Dacey, Ruben Rodriguez-Sanchez, John O'Sullivan, Sofia Ortega-Garcia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The dolphinfish, Coryphaena hippurus, is a fast-swimming, predatory fish exhibiting relatively fast growth and early maturation among marine teleosts. It is an important, potentially renewable resource throughout its global subtropical-to-tropical range. Understanding the ecology of this wide-ranging fish is critical to proper fisheries management, but studies have historically depended heavily upon aggregated catch data reported by fisheries. This study uses tagging data to explore finer scale dolphinfish movements in two subregions of the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) - the west coasts of Baja California Peninsula (WBC) and Oaxaca (OAX), Mexico. Results: Adult dolphinfish (fork length 66-129 cm) were tagged with conventional (n = 132 tags) and electronic tags (n = 30 tags, miniPAT) between 2010 and 2014. Recapture rate of conventional tags was 4.5% with a maximum days of liberty of 141 days (mean = 56 d); 20 electronic tags reported but all did so prior to programmed release dates, with days at liberty ranging from 4 to 62 (mean = 24 d). Fish remained within the region they were tagged except for six fish tagged in WBC and one in OAX. Latitudinal (WBC) and longitudinal (OAX) extensions of observed fish movements (determined via a novel analytical approach) increased with days at liberty. Despite occasional deep dives (max 262 m), fish remained surface oriented with short excursions below the isothermal layer but larger OAX fish (fork length [103 cm, 120 cm]) inhabiting warmer waters (sea surface temperatures (SST) > ~ 26 °C) spent more time below the isothermal layer than smaller fish (fork length [90 cm, 112 cm]) inhabiting colder WBC surface waters (SST > ~ 22 °C). Conclusions: This study reveals movements of dolphinfish that infer regional differences in thermal habitat utilization and displacement over time. This inference evokes questions important to fisheries management regarding the three-dimensional extent of the dolphinfish's realized thermal niche, its population structure, and the spatiotemporal connectivity of its habitats within the multinational EPO. With improved tag retention, longer deployments should capture increasing displacements along observed axes (N/S vs. E/W); the orientation of seasonal displacement axes suggest longer-distance movements would provide opportunities for reproductive mixing via trans-national migrations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30
JournalAnimal Biotelemetry
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 20 Aug 2020

Keywords

  • Dolphinfish
  • Eastern Pacific Ocean
  • Electronic tagging
  • Fisheries
  • Marine
  • Migration
  • Movement ecology
  • Tracking
  • WC-GPE3

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