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Movements and spatiotemporal distribution of escaped farmed and local wild Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua L.)


Correspondence: I Uglem, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Tungasletta 2, No-7485 Trondheim, Norway. E-mail:


Commercial farming of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua L.) is now being developed in several countries. The ecological consequences of cod culture are poorly understood, but recent research suggests that Atlantic cod are more prone to escape from net pens than Atlantic salmon. Here, we describe the movements and the spatiotemporal distribution of farmed cod after escape relative to wild cod, both during and outside the natural spawning season. The experimental design included simulating escape incidents of farmed cod tagged with acoustic transmitters and using an array of automatic listening stations to monitor their dispersal and distribution. For comparison, local wild cod were monitored using the same array of receivers. The farmed cod dispersed rapidly after a simulated escape, they randomly distributed over large areas and their distribution overlapped with local wild cod. Moreover, escaped farmed fish were found at local cod spawning areas during the spawning season. The study also indicated that the recapture rate of escaped farmed cod was high compared with that of escaped farmed salmon. Thus, while our results showed that there is a considerable potential for ecosystem effects caused by escaped farmed cod, mitigating actions such as an efficient recapture fishery for escapees may be possible.

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