Linking tagging technology and molecular genetics to gain insight in the spatial dynamics of two stocks of cod in Northeast Atlantic waters
The Northeast Arctic cod (Gadus morhua L.: NEAC) remains the most abundant cod stock in the North Atlantic, while the catches of the partially co-occurring Norwegian coastal cod (NCC) stocks have dramatically decreased in recent years. To ensure effective management of the two stocks, it is necessary to know if the population genetic structure is associated with any pattern in the spatial dynamics or whether it is affected by any distinct environmental factors. By combining information from electronic data storage tags (DST) and molecular genetics methods with statistical tools, we have been able to associate spatial dynamics and distinct environmental factors to the two cod stocks. In general, adult NEAC migrate between deep, warm overwintering grounds and shallow summer feeding grounds where water temperatures maybe low. In contrast, NCC do not undertake large-scale seasonal migrations, show little seasonal variation in depth distribution, and experience the opposite seasonal change in temperature compared with NEAC. However, within the NCC group, some individuals did conduct longer horizontal movements than others. Even though the distances calculated in this study represent the shortest distance between release and recapture positions, they are far higher than previously reported by NCC. Distinctive depth profiles indicate that this migrant NCC have moved out of the area, passing the deep trenches outside Lofoten while more stationary NCC occupies shallower depths throughout the year. The temperature profiles also indicate that migrant and stationary NCC has occupied different areas during the year. We demonstrate that the combination of information from DSTs and molecular genetics offers a deeper understanding of individual cod behaviour, provides an insight in the spatial dynamics of the species, and ultimately, improves the scientific basis for management of a complex mixed fishery of Atlantic cod.
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