• Population Structure And Behavior Of Pacific Halibut

      Seitz, Andrew C.; Norcross, Brenda (2006)
      Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) is not managed on regional scales with separate population dynamics, but rather as a single, fully mixed population extending from California through the Bering Sea. However, some of the evidence from which this paradigm was established is questionable and I hypothesize that there are separate spawning populations of Pacific halibut in three regions, the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, because these regions are geographically separated by land masses and/or deep water passes that may prevent movement by adults. Pop-up Archival Transmitting (PAT) tags were attached to Pacific halibut in each region to examine their movement and behavior. First, geolocation by ambient light was able to discern basin-scale movements of demersal fishes in high latitudes and therefore this technique provided a feasible method for providing scientific inference on large-scale population structure in Pacific halibut. Second, because seasonally low ambient light levels and inhabitation of deep water (>200 m) restricted geolocation by light during winter, an alternative method, a minimum distance dispersal model, was developed for identifying migration pathways of demersal fish in the Gulf of Alaska based on daily maximum depth. Third, the PAT tags provided no evidence that Pacific halibut in the southeastern Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands moved among regions during the mid-winter spawning season, supporting my hypothesis of separate populations. Fourth, geographic landforms and discontinuities in the continental shelf appeared to limit the interchange of Pacific halibut among areas and possibly delineate the boundaries of potential populations in the Gulf of Alaska and eastern Bering Sea, with apparent smaller, localized populations along the Aleutian Islands. This possible population structure may be reinforced by regional behavioral variation in response to the environment. Future research should be directed at quantifying the exchange of individual fish among regions for possible local area management plans that more accurately reflect population structure.