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Seasonal foraging movements and migratory patterns of female Lamna ditropis tagged in Prince William Sound, Alaska

Authors


†Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Commercial Fisheries Division, P. O. Box 25526, 1255 W. 8th Street, Juneau, AK 99802-5526, U.S.A. Tel.: +1 907 465 6123; fax: +1 907 465 2604; email: lee_hulbert@fishgame.state.ak.us

Abstract

Conventional and electronic tags were used to investigate social segregation, distribution, movements and migrations of salmon sharks Lamna ditropis in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Sixteen salmon sharks were tagged with satellite transmitters and 246 with conventional tags following capture, and were then released in Prince William Sound during summer 1999 to 2001. Most salmon sharks sexed during the study were female (95%), suggesting a high degree of sexual segregation in the region. Salmon sharks congregated at adult Pacific salmon Oncorhynchus spp. migration routes and in bays near Pacific salmon spawning grounds in Prince William Sound during July and August. Adult Pacific salmon were the principal prey in 51 salmon shark stomachs collected during summer months in Prince William Sound, but the fish appeared to be opportunistic predators and consumed sablefish Anoplopoma fimbria, gadids, Pacific herring Clupea pallasi, rockfish Sebastes spp. and squid (Teuthoidea) even when adult Pacific salmon were locally abundant. As Pacific salmon migrations declined in late summer, the salmon sharks dispersed; some continued to forage in Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska into autumn and winter months, while others rapidly moved south-east thousands of kilometres toward the west coasts of Canada and the U.S. Three movement modes are proposed to explain the movement patterns observed in the Gulf of Alaska and eastern North Pacific Ocean: ‘focal foraging’ movements, ‘foraging dispersals’ and ‘direct migrations’. Patterns of salmon shark movement are possibly explained by spatio-temporal changes in prey quality and density, an energetic trade-off between prey availability and water temperature, intra-specific competition for food and reproductive success. Transmissions from the electronic tags also provided data on depth and water temperatures experienced by the salmon sharks. The fish ranged from the surface to a depth of 668 m, encountered water temperatures from 4·0 to 16·8° C and generally spent the most time above 40 m depth and between 6 and 14° C (60 and 73%, respectively).

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