This study reports on the movements of swordfish tagged within the Pacific Leatherback Conservation Area (PLCA), an expansive region (>500,000 km2) off the U.S. West Coast that has been seasonally restricted to drift‐gillnet fishing since 2001 to reduce leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coricea) interactions. Thirteen swordfish were outfitted with satellite‐linked archival tags scheduled for short (2–20 days, n = 11) and longer‐term (150 days, n = 2) data collection. All tags were deployed on basking swordfish using traditional harpoon‐based methods during the fall of 2012–2013, near offshore seamounts (35.6°N/122.9°W to 37.4°N/123.5°W). Depth and temperature data from 11 swordfish (~90 to 150 kg) resulted in <251 days of movement information from the PLCA region. All tagged individuals exhibited surface‐oriented nocturnal movements, spending >99% of the night above the average thermocline depth (37.5 m), with an average night depth of 8.3 ± 1.6 m. Daytime depth distribution was greater and more variable (mean 107.1 ± 21.2 m), with fish primarily displaying three behavioral patterns: (i) basking activity, 16.7% of the day, (ii) a mixed‐layer distribution between 3 m and the thermocline (26.8% of the day), and (iii) prolonged dives below the thermocline, 56.5% of the day. For seven of the tracks, daytime basking rates increased when thermocline depth was <37 m. As fish moved offshore, there was less variability in vertical movements with a reduction in both basking activity and mixed layer occupancy, as well as an increase in average daytime depth. These data are discussed with respect to the potential development of alternative fishery options for the PLCA.
Fisheries Oceanography – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
Keywords: ; ; ; ;
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