Testing the potential effects of shellfish farming on swimming activity and spatial distribution of sole (Solea solea) in a mesocosm

Laffargue, P.; Bégout, M-L.; Lagardère, F.
July 2006
ICES Journal of Marine Science / Journal du Conseil;Jul2006, Vol. 63 Issue 6, p1014
Academic Journal
Restructuring coastal fish nursery habitats by extensive shellfish farming in the French part of the Bay of Biscay could influence fish physiology and behaviour and affect the ecological performance of the species. The influence of oyster-trestle cultivation installations on sole (Solea solea) swimming behaviour was investigated using an experimental pond mesocosm. A pen was constructed with three interconnected zones (two with bags of live oysters or oyster shells on trestles, and one free zone). Water renewal depended on the tide. Environmental variables were recorded continuously (temperature, oxygen, pH, meteorological data), every 3–5 days (salinity, samples taken for water analysis and estimation of sedimentation rate) or intermittently (illumination). Sediment cores were taken in each zone before and after the experiment, for sediment redox and water content, plus an evaluation of potential prey. Fish movements (nine sole collected in the wild and tagged with electronic transmitters) were registered during three fortnight-long sessions in spring 2002. In addition to shading from the oyster trestles, water and sediment properties changed significantly in the live oyster zone. Environmental changes and sole swimming behaviour were linked by direct or indirect effects: swimming activity for eight of nine sole followed a diel cycle, with greater travelling distance by night. All the environmental variables modulated swimming activity, but temperature increase, water renewal, and climatic events were associated with key changes between sessions or individual sole. A multilinear regression analysis suggested strongest links with oxygen, atmospheric pressure, light level, water column height, and pH. All sole moved around the enclosure at night, probably to forage. By day, except during gale-force wind, sole returned to the same resting zones. Under the oyster-rearing structures appeared to be the most attractive resting sites. Sole seemingly can occupy an entire nursery in a shellfish farming basin that has moderate habitat changes.


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