Catch-and-release of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua): post-release behaviour of acoustically pretagged fish in a natural marine environment
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Studying the sublethal effects of catch-and-release (C&R) is challenging, as there are several potential sources of bias. For example, if behavioural alterations immediately after the release event are to be studied, separation of tagging effects from actual C&R effects is required, which is a challenge in the wild, particularly in marine environments. To investigate the effects of C&R on Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in their natural environment, 80 cod were caught in fyke nets, fitted with acoustic transmitters, and released. After recovery from tagging and handling for at least 14 days, nine individuals were recaptured and released at least once during experimental angling, following best release practice. All cod survived the C&R event and did not show any large-scale behavioural changes (i.e., changes in diel vertical migrations). However, analysis of small-scale vertical movements showed that three individuals underwent short-term alterations (e.g., reduced or increased swimming activity). This study showed that pretagging fish with acoustic transmitters before experimental angling is an option when investigating fish behaviour immediately after the release event in marine environments. Moreover, release guidelines for cod should be developed, as cod can recover quickly if caught in shallow waters (<20 m) and properly handled and released.