Fisheries bycatch has been identified as the greatest threat to marine mammals worldwide. Characterizing the impacts of bycatch on marine mammals is challenging because it is difficult to both observe and quantify, particularly in small-scale fisheries where data on fishing effort and marine mammal abundance and distribution are often limited. The lack of risk frameworks that can integrate and visualize existing data have hindered the ability to describe and quantify bycatch risk. Here, we describe the design of a new geographic information systems tool built specifically for the analysis of bycatch in small-scale fisheries, called Bycatch Risk Assessment (ByRA). Using marine mammals in Malaysia and Vietnam as a test case, we applied ByRA to assess the risks posed to Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) and dugongs (Dugong dugon) by five small-scale fishing gear types (hook and line, nets, longlines, pots and traps, and trawls). ByRA leverages existing data on animal distributions, fisheries effort, and estimates of interaction rates by combining expert knowledge and spatial analyses of existing data to visualize and characterize bycatch risk. By identifying areas of bycatch concern while accounting for uncertainty using graphics, maps and summary tables, we demonstrate the importance of integrating available geospatial data in an accessible format that taps into local knowledge and can be corroborated by and communicated to stakeholders of data-limited fisheries. Our methodological approach aims to meet a critical need of fisheries managers: to identify emergent interaction patterns between fishing gears and marine mammals and support the development of management actions that can lead to sustainable fisheries and mitigate bycatch risk for species of conservation concern.
In order to inform decision making and policy, research to address sustainability challenges requires cross-disciplinary approaches that are co-created with a wide and inclusive diversity of disciplines and stakeholders. As the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development approaches, it is therefore timely to take stock of the global range of cross-disciplinary questions to inform the development of policies to restore and sustain ocean health. We synthesized questions from major science and policy horizon scanning exercises, identifying 89 questions with relevance for ocean policy and governance. We then scanned the broad ocean science literature to examine issues potentially missed in the horizon scans and supplemented the horizon scan outcome with 11 additional questions. This resulted in an unprioritized list of 100 general questions that would require a cross-disciplinary approach to inform policy. The questions fell into broad categories including: coastal and marine environmental change, managing ocean activities, governance for sustainable oceans, ocean value, and technological and socio-economic innovation. Each question can be customized by ecosystem, region, scale, and socio-political context, and is intended to inspire discussions of salient cross-disciplinary research directions to direct scientific research that will inform policies. Governance and management responses to these questions will best be informed by drawing upon a diversity of natural and social sciences, local and traditional knowledge, and engagement of different sectors and stakeholders.
Blue whale survival and fitness are highly contingent on successful food intake during an intense feeding season. Factors affecting time spent at the surface or at depth in a prey patch are likely to alter foraging effort, net energy gain, and fitness. We specifically examined the energetic consequences of a demonstrated reduction in dive duration caused by vessel proximity, and of krill density reductions potentially resulting from krill exploitation or climate change. We estimated net energy gain over a simulated 10-h foraging bout under baseline conditions, and three scenarios, reflecting krill density reductions, vessel interactions of different amplitudes, and their combined effects. Generally, the magnitude of the effects increased with that of krill density reductions and duration of vessel proximity. They were also smaller when peak densities were more accessible, i.e., nearer to the surface. Effect size from a reduction in krill density on net energy gain were deemed small to moderate at 5% krill reduction, moderate to large at 10% reduction, and large at 25 and 50% reductions. Vessels reduced cumulated net energy gain by as much as 25% when in proximity for 3 of a 10-h daylight foraging period, and by up to 47–85% when continuously present for 10 h. The impacts of vessel proximity on net energy gain increased with their duration. They were more important when whales were precluded from reaching the most beneficial peak densities, and when these densities were located at deeper depths. When krill densities were decreased by 5% or more, disturbing foraging blue whales for 3 h could reduce their net energy gain by ≥30%. For this endangered western North Atlantic blue whale population, a decrease in net energy gain through an altered krill preyscape or repeated vessel interactions is of particular concern, as this species relies on a relatively short feeding season to accumulate energy reserves and to fuel reproduction. This study highlights the importance of distance limits during whale-watching operations to ensure efficient feeding, as well as the vulnerability of this specialist to fluctuations in krill densities.
Coexistence of ecologically similar species occupying the same geographic location (sympatry) poses questions regarding how their populations persist without leading to competitive exclusion. There is increasing evidence to show that micro-variations in habitat use may promote coexistence through minimizing direct competition for space and resources. We used two sympatric marine predators that show high fidelity to a small, remote coral atoll as a model to investigate how temporally dynamic partitioning of space use may promote coexistence. Using novel methods (difference network analysis and dynamic space occupancy analysis), we revealed that even though blacktip reef sharks Carcharhinus melanopterus and sicklefin lemon sharks Negaprion acutidens both show focused use of the same atoll habitats, the spatio-temporal dynamics of their use was partitioned such that they only shared the same microhabitats 26% of the time. Moreover, the degree of overlap was strongly influenced by the tidal cycle, peaking at ∼35% at higher tides as both species appear to target similar intertidal micro-habitats despite the increase in available space. Our work provides a rare example of how two marine predators with similar ecological roles and habitat preferences may coexist in the same place through dynamic segregation of habitat use in space and time, potentially reflecting adaptive behavioral traits for minimizing interactions. The strong influence of small tidal variation on species habitat use and partitioning also raises concerns over how atoll ecosystem dynamics may be influenced by sea level rises that could alter tidal dynamics.
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) is responsible for managing highly migratory species in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), and has been interested in managing bigeye tuna as stock assessments prior to 2017 indicated that the stock was experiencing overfishing. This paper provides some background on the primary fisheries catching bigeye tuna in the WCPO, describes the various policies within the conservation and management measures adopted by the WCPFC, discusses the effectiveness of such policies, and concludes with some suggestions for future policies for consideration.
Australian science has evolved to include a number of initiatives designed to promote and guide ethical and culturally appropriate Indigenous participation and engagement. While interest and overall engagement between Indigenous people and marine scientists appears to have grown in the last decade there are also signs that some researchers may not be setting out to engage with Indigenous Australians on the right foot. This research seeks to move beyond anecdotal evidence about engagement of marine researchers with Indigenous Australians by gathering empirical information from the scientists’ perspective. Our survey of 128 respondents showed that 63% (n = 79) of respondents have engaged with Indigenous communities in some way throughout their career, however, most marine research projects have not included Indigenous engagement and when it occurs it is often shorter than 3 years in duration. Responses indicated that the majority of marine scientists see mutual benefits from engagement, do not avoid it and believe it will become more important in the future. We identify a number of challenges and opportunities for marine research institutions, marine researchers and Indigenous communities if positive aspirations for engagement are to be converted to respectful, long-term and mutually beneficial engagement.
Wild dolphin-swim tourism has grown in specific locations where Hawaiian spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) have known resting habitat. The increased growth in dolphin-swim businesses has created an industry in Hawaii that earns an estimated $102 million (USD) annually in 2013. Semi-structured interviews with business owners, market research, and boat-based observations provide a platform for estimating revenue generated from dolphin tourism in two popular locations, Waianae, Oahu and Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Island. A revenue analysis of dolphin-swim tourism is presented using a peak season and utilization rate model. These predictions offer an accountability exercise based on a series of assumptions regarding wild dolphin-swim demand and an annual estimate of the number of viewing participants and revenue earned. The results show that dolphin viewing companies are making a larger profit than dolphin-swim businesses by approximately $19 million (USD) per year, however, both avenues are generating large earnings. Sizable differences between businesses in Kona and Waianae are discussed. The average lifetime revenue generated by a dolphin in 2013 is estimated at $3,364,316 (USD) for Waianae and $1,608,882 (USD) for Kona, and is presented as a first step in scenario analysis for policy makers looking to implement management in the bays where tourism occurs. This study offers the first revenue estimates of spinner dolphin tourism in Hawaii, which can provide context for further discussion on the impact and economic role of the dolphin-swim industry in the state.
Knowledge of the spatial and temporal distribution of green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) nesting is crucial for management of this species. Limited data exist on the nesting patterns of green turtles along the northwestern Gulf of Mexico (GoM) coast. From 1987 to 2019, 211 green turtle nesting activities were documented on the Texas coast, including 111 confirmed nests and 100 non-nesting emergences. Of the 111 nests, 99 were located on North Padre Island (97 at Padre Island National Seashore (PAIS), two north of PAIS) and 12 on South Padre Island (six within the Laguna Atascosa or Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuges (NWR), six outside of a NWR). Of the 100 non-nesting emergences, 75 were on North Padre Island (70 at PAIS, 5 north of PAIS), 21 on South Padre Island (nine within a NWR, 12 outside of a NWR), one on Boca Chica Beach, two on San Jose Island, and one on Mustang Island. Nearly all of the nests (92.8%) and most of the non-nesting emergences (79.0%) were on property protected by the United States Department of the Interior as PAIS or a NWR, and confirmed nest density was largest at PAIS, highlighting the importance of these federally protected lands as nesting habitat for this threatened species. Of the 111 located nests, eight were predated. Mean hatching success of the 103 non-predated nests was 77.4%, and 9,475 hatchlings were released from the predated and non-predated nests. The largest annual number of green turtle nests documented was 29 in 2017. Nesting appeared to increase since 2010, but at a much lower rate than at other GoM nesting beaches. To aid with recovery, efforts should be undertaken to monitor long-term nesting trends, protect nesting turtles and nests, and investigate potential causes for the slower recovery in Texas. Additionally, the genetic structure of the population that nests in Texas should be determined to reveal if the population warrants recognition as a unique management unit, or if it is part of a broader unit that is a shared nesting resource with Mexico which is already being considered as a unique management unit.
Cold-water corals build extensive reefs on the seafloor that are oases of biodiversity, biomass, and organic matter processing rates. The reefs baffle sediments, and when coral growth and sedimentation outweigh ambient sedimentation, carbonate mounds of tens to hundreds of meters high and several kilometers wide can form. Because coral mounds form over ten-thousands of years, their development process remains elusive. While several environmental factors influence mound development, the mounds also have a major impact on their environment. This feedback between environment and mounds, and how this drives mound development is the focus of this paper. Based on the similarity of spatial coral mound patterns and patterns in self-organized ecosystems, we provide a new perspective on coral mound development. In accordance with the theory of self-organization through scale-dependent feedbacks, we first elicit the processes that are known to affect mound development, and might cause scale-dependent feedbacks. Then we demonstrate this concept with model output from a study on the Logachev area, SW Rockall Trough margin. Spatial patterns in mound provinces are the result of a complex set of interacting processes. Spatial self-organization provides a framework in which to place and compare these processes, so as to assess if and how they contribute to pattern formation in coral mounds.
Seagrasses are important marine ecosystems situated throughout the world’s coastlines. They are facing declines around the world due to global and local threats such as rising ocean temperatures, coastal development and pollution from sewage outfalls and agriculture. Efforts have been made to reduce seagrass loss through reducing local and regional stressors, and through active restoration. Seagrass restoration is a rapidly maturing discipline, but improved restoration practices are needed to enhance the success of future programs. Major gaps in knowledge remain, however, prior research efforts have provided valuable insights into factors influencing the outcomes of restoration and there are now several examples of successful large-scale restoration programs. A variety of tools and techniques have recently been developed that will improve the efficiency, cost effectiveness, and scalability of restoration programs. This review describes several restoration successes in Australia and New Zealand, with a focus on emerging techniques for restoration, key considerations for future programs, and highlights the benefits of increased collaboration, Traditional Owner (First Nation) and stakeholder engagement. Combined, these lessons and emerging approaches show that seagrass restoration is possible, and efforts should be directed at upscaling seagrass restoration into the future. This is critical for the future conservation of this important ecosystem and the ecological and coastal communities they support.
Seagrass meadows are important for carbon storage, this carbon is known as “blue carbon” and represents a vital ecosystem service. Recently there has been growing interest in connectivity between ecosystems and the potential for connected ecosystems to facilitative ecosystem services. Tropical seagrass meadows are connected to coral reefs, as the reef barrier dissipates waves, which facilitates sediment accumulation and avoid erosion and export. Therefore, coral reefs might enhance the seagrass meadows capacity as a blue carbon sink. We tested this hypothesis through an assessment of blue carbon across a gradient of connected seagrass meadow and coral reef sites. We assessed attributes of seagrass meadows along a transect in addition to classifying the sites as exposed and sheltered. Classification of sites was completed through analyzing wave crest density in photographs and using granulometric evenness index. Organic carbon and organic matter were measured in sediment core samples and within seagrass living biomass (both above and below ground). Lastly, we measured changes in above and below ground traits of seagrass plants across the same sites. Gaps in the reef barrier were linked to high wave disturbance and exposed conditions, whilst barrier continuity to low wave disturbance and sheltered conditions. Organic carbon in sediments was 144 Mg ha–1 in the most sheltered (with reef barrier) and 91 Mg ha–1 in the most exposed (without reef barrier) meadows. Sheltered conditions also showed a redistribution of seagrass biomass to a greater quantity of roots compared to rhizomes. Whilst in exposed conditions the opposite occurred, which could be due to increased rhizome biomass have to enhanced anchorage or greater nutrient availability. This study found that coral reefs facilitate blue carbon potential in seagrass meadows indicating that coral reefs support this important ecosystem service. Also, results suggest that loss of coral reef structure due to bleaching and other stressors will likely result in a reduction of the blue carbon storage capacity of adjacent seagrass meadow. Further research should investigate how combined global and regional stresses may impact on the potential for coral reefs to buffer seagrass meadows, and how these stresses affect the functional traits of seagrass plants.
Subtropical gyres are large areas of the ocean characterized by high stratification, low nutrients, and low primary production. The Canary Current System (CanCS) shows a rather strong seasonal thermocline during most of the annual cycle, which erodes through convective mixing from January to March promoting the so-called Late Winter Bloom (LWB). Atmospheric deposition from the Sahara desert is also another key feature of the CanCS providing additional nutrients to the euphotic zone. As a consequence of global warming, these oligotrophic regimes systems are expanding and the temperature increase affects phytoplankton, and reverberate on the food web structure and biogeochemical cycles. In the CanCS, the effect of warming and dust deposition on the planktonic community remains poorly know. Here, we show the effects of a 0.5°C increase in ocean temperature during two consecutive years. During 2011, winter temperature allowed the development of the LWB, promoting the increase of autotrophic cells and the coexistence of the microbial loop and the “classic” trophic web. The former predominated before and after the LWB, while the latter prevailed during the LWB. The rather high temperature during 2010 prevented the LWB development, causing highly oligotrophic conditions and episodic events of Saharan dust contributing to nutrient inputs. During this warm year, we found a dominance of small cells such as nanoflagellates and dinoflagellates, and surprisingly high biomass of mesozooplankton, hinting at the “tunneling effect” as an alternative trophic pathway (rapid uptake of phosphate by prokaryotes which are consumed by flagellates and then by zooplankton). These changes show the impact of a slight increase in temperature in this oligotrophic system and how future scenarios in the context of global warming could promote considerable shifts in the trophic web structure.
A timeline of commercial fisheries extinctions and a list of threatened or extirpated marine species are presented to document the rapidly declining abundance of marine resources in the Turkish part of the Black Sea and Marmara Sea. Turkish nationally reported fisheries data were compared over a 50-year period from 1967 (the first year data were spatially allocated) to 2016 to assess which species are now extirpated (i.e., earlier present, and now absent from reported catch data), and which species have become commercially extinct (i.e., whose catch declined by 80.0–99.9%). The size of bony fish caught in Turkish waters has also strongly declined. Other important taxa, specifically big sharks and mammals, not covered by fisheries statistics, or currently under protection, but also exhibiting worrisome declining trends, are discussed based on accounts based on peer-reviewed and gray literature and personal accounts from local scientists and fishers. Overall, the Turkish parts of the Black Sea lost 17 extirpated species and 17 commercially extinct marine species, while the Sea of Marmara lost 19 extirpated species and 22 commercially extinct species. This study commemorates the many lost species of the Black and Marmara Seas, and may be seen as a warning call to prevent dozens of others species to be lost. We urge the Turkish authorities to take measures to effectively reduce fishing effort and thus to allow for a natural rebuilding of what remains of the fish stocks exploited by commercial fisheries.
Both costs and benefits must be considered when implementing marine protected areas (MPAs), particularly those associated with fishing effort displaced by potential closures. The Southern Ocean offers a case study in understanding such tradeoffs, where MPAs are actively being discussed to achieve a range of protection and sustainable use objectives. Here, we evaluated the possible impacts of two MPA scenarios on the Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) fishery and krill-dependent predators in the Scotia Sea, explicitly addressing the displacement of fishing from closed areas. For both scenarios, we employed a minimally realistic, spatially explicit ecosystem model and considered three alternative redistributions of displaced fishing. We projected both MPAs to provide positive outcomes for many krill-dependent predators, especially when closed areas included at least 50–75% of their foraging distributions. Further, differences between the scenarios suggest ways to improve seal and penguin protection in the Scotia Sea. MPA scenarios also projected increases in total fishery yields, but alongside risks of fishing in areas where relatively low krill densities could cause the fishery to suspend operations. The three alternatives for redistributing displaced fishing had little effect on benefits to predators, but did matter for the fishery, with greater differences in overall catch and risk of fishing in areas of low krill density when displaced fishing was redistributed evenly among the open areas. Collectively, results suggest a well-designed MPA in the Scotia Sea may protect krill-dependent predators, even with displaced fishing, and preclude further spatial management of the krill fishery outside the MPA. More broadly, outcomes denote the importance of delineating fishing and predator habitat, spatial scales, and the critical trade-offs inherent in MPA development.
Global climate change is driving the redistribution of marine species and thereby potentially restructuring endemic communities. Understanding how localised conservation measures such as protection from additional human pressures can confer resilience to ecosystems is therefore an important area of research. Here, we examine the resilience of a no-take marine reserve (NTR) to the establishment of urchin barrens habitat. The barrens habitat is created through overgrazing of kelp by an invading urchin species that is expanding its range within a hotspot of rapid climate change. In our study region, a multi-year monitoring program provides a unique time-series of benthic imagery collected by an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) within an NTR and nearby reference areas. We use a Bayesian hierarchical spatio-temporal modelling approach to estimate whether the NTR is associated with reduced formation of urchin barrens, and thereby enhances local resilience. Our approach controls for the important environmental covariates of depth and habitat complexity (quantified as rugosity derived from multibeam sonar mapping), as well as spatial and temporal dependence. We find evidence for the NTR conferring resilience with a strong reserve effect that suggests improved resistance to the establishment of barrens. However, we find a concerning and consistent trajectory of increasing barrens cover in both the reference areas and the NTR, with the odds of barrens increasing by approximately 32% per year. Thus, whereas the reserve is demonstrating resilience to the initial establishment of barrens, there is currently no evidence of recovery once barrens are established. We also find that depth and rugosity covariates derived from multibeam mapping provide useful predictors for barrens occurrence. These results have important management implications as they demonstrate: (i) the importance of monitoring programs to inform adaptive management; (ii) that NTRs provide a potential local conservation management tool under climate change impacts, and (iii) that technologies such as AUVs and multibeam mapping can be harnessed to inform regional decision-making. Continuation of the current monitoring program is required to assess whether the NTR can provide long term protection from a phase shift that replaces kelp with urchin barrens.
These guidelines, in their full text format, are intended to provide fisheries managers at any level, as well as those who work with fisheries to improve their sustainability, with bestpractice methodology on the safe and humane handling and release of small cetaceans accidentally bycaught in fishing gear. They are intended to enable managers and ‘trainers’, as well as anyone involved with fisheries policy or management to understand the rationale and need for ‘best practice’, as well as the science that supports the recommended practices.
The illustrations provided with these guidelines, as well as the bullet-pointed handling notes, can be used to develop 2-page laminated fisher-friendly ‘Flips’ (ready reckoners) that contain clear, concise, bullet-pointed instructions pertinent to each specific fishery.
Coral reefs have changed radically in the last few decades with reefs in the Caribbean now averaging 13% coral cover and 40% macroalgal cover (mostly Dictyota and Lobophora). So, it is time we re-evaluate which species are key to the process of herbivory in these new conditions. The role herbivorous fishes play in controlling macroalgae is often considered by managers and researchers at a guild or family level, but greater resolution is needed to understand the impact of herbivores more fully. We performed feeding assays and behavioral observations of fish feeding to quantify the removal of the most common macroalgae by different herbivorous fish species. In total, we ran 34 h-long trials using Dictyota and Lobophora across two sites and conducted over 34 h of observation of 105 fish from eight species in the Cayman Islands, Caribbean. We show that many nominal herbivores did not consume macroalgae but instead targeted the epibionts on macroalgae and other substrates. In fact, only three fish taxa consumed macroalgae as a significant proportion of their feeding: one species of surgeonfish (Acanthurus coeruleus), one species of parrotfish (Sparisoma aurofrenatum), and the third, the chubs (Kyphosus spp.), is a group of species which is not consistently considered as part of the herbivore community in the Caribbean. From our observations, an individual A. coeruleus can consume ∼44 g of Dictyota per day, while S. aurofrenatum can consume ∼50 g and Kyphosus spp. can consume ∼100 g. These values are significantly more than all other herbivorous fish species and suggest these three taxa are key macroalgal consumers in the Caribbean. These results highlight that disentangling the role of individual herbivore species is necessary for critical species to be identified and protected. Furthermore, as reef conditions change, we need to re-evaluate the key functions and species to be more effective at protecting and managing these important ecosystems. With far higher macroalgal coverage than in the past, the few browsing species that remove macroalgae may be increasingly important in promoting reef health.
Climate change and fishing represent two of the most important stressors facing fish stocks. Forecasting the consequences of fishing scenarios has long been a central part of fisheries management. More recently, the effects of changing climate have been simulated alongside the effects of fishing to project their combined consequences for fish stocks. Here, we use an ecological individual-based model (IBM) to make predictions about how the Northeast Atlantic mackerel (NEAM) stock may respond to various fishing and climate scenarios out to 2050. Inputs to the IBM include Sea Surface Temperature (SST), chlorophyll concentration (as a proxy for prey availability) and rates of fishing mortality F at age. The climate scenarios comprise projections of SST and chlorophyll from an earth system model GFDL-ESM-2M under assumptions of high (RCP 2.6) and low (RCP 8.5) climate change mitigation action. Management scenarios comprise different levels of F, ranging from no fishing to rate Flim which represents an undesirable situation for management. In addition to these simple management scenarios, we also implement a hypothetical area closure in the North Sea, with different assumptions about how much fishing mortality is relocated elsewhere when it is closed. Our results suggest that, over the range of scenarios considered, fishing mortality has a larger effect than climate out to 2050. This result is evident in terms of stock size and spatial distribution in the summer months. We then show that the effects of area closures are highly sensitive to assumptions about how fishing mortality is relocated elsewhere after area closures. Going forward it would be useful to incorporate: (1) fishing fleet dynamics so that the behavioral response of fishers to area closures, and to the stock’s spatial distribution, can be better accounted for; and (2) additional climate-related stressors such as ocean acidification, deoxygenation and changes in prey composition.
Elevated CO2 levels predicted to occur by the end of the century can affect the physiology and behavior of marine fishes. For one important survival mechanism, the response to chemical alarm cues from conspecifics, substantial among-individual variation in the extent of behavioral impairment when exposed to elevated CO2 has been observed in previous studies. Whole brain transcriptomic data has further emphasized the importance of parental phenotypic variation in the response of juvenile fish to elevated CO2. In this study, we investigate the genome-wide proteomic responses of this variation in the brain of 5-week old spiny damselfish, Acanthochromis polyacanthus. We compared the accumulation of proteins in the brains of juvenile A. polyacanthus from two different parental behavioral phenotypes (sensitive and tolerant) that had been experimentally exposed to short-term, long-term and inter-generational elevated CO2. Our results show differential accumulation of key proteins related to stress response and epigenetic markers with elevated CO2 exposure. Proteins related to neurological development and glucose metabolism were also differentially accumulated particularly in the long-term developmental treatment, which might be critical for juvenile development. By contrast, exposure to elevated CO2 in the parental generation resulted in only three differentially accumulated proteins in the offspring, revealing potential for inter-generational acclimation. Lastly, we found a distinct proteomic pattern in juveniles due to the behavioral sensitivity of parents to elevated CO2, even though the behavior of the juvenile fish was impaired regardless of parental phenotype. Our data shows that developing juveniles are affected in their brain protein accumulation by elevated CO2, but the effect varies with the length of exposure as well as due to variation of parental phenotypes in the population.
Acoustic telemetry techniques are very useful tools to monitor in detail the swimming behavior and spatial use of fish in artificial rearing environments at individual and group levels. We evaluated the feasibility of using passive acoustic telemetry to monitor fish welfare in sea-cage aquaculture at an industrial scale, characterizing for the first time the diel swimming and distribution patterns of gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) at fine-scale. Ten fish were implanted with acoustic tags equipped with pressure and acceleration sensors, and monitored in a commercial-size sea-cage for a period of 1 month. Overall, fish exhibited clear differences in day vs. night patterns both on swimming activity and vertical distribution throughout the experiment. Space use increased at night after the implementation of structural environmental enrichment in the sea-cage. Acoustic telemetry may represent an advancement to monitor fish farming procedures and conditions, helping to promote fish welfare and product quality.