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Fisheries Behavioral Ecology - Abstracts

Ryer, C.H. 2008. A review of flatfish behavior relative to trawls. Fisheries Research 90:138-146.


Trawls harness the innate avoidance behavior of fish to affect their capture. As such, effective bycatch reduction relies, in part, upon knowledge of behavioral differences between target and non-target species. The behavior of flatfish during herding, net entry and passage through trawls differs substantially from that of many roundfish. These differences result from the unique body morphology of flatfish and the constraints this morphology places upon their natural predator avoidance and evasion tactics. Paramount, in this regard, is the intimate association between flatfish and the seafloor. Flatfish utilize a detection minimization strategy that combines burial, highly evolved cryptic capabilities and low activity. Additionally, the maximum sustained swimming speeds and endurance of flatfishes are low compared to most roundfish. As a result, flatfish typically respond to trawl ground-gear at shorter distances, remain closer to the seafloor during herding and herd in the net mouth for a shorter time, prior to net entry, than roundfish. As is the case for roundfish species, light and temperature influence flatfish reactivity and herding behavior. At low ambient light levels herding behavior in flatfish breaks down, as fish initially respond to ground-gear by rising off the bottom, which removes them from the ground-gear’s zone of influence. Similarly, at low temperatures some flatfish display reduced herding. Differences in behavior between flatfish and roundfish have spurred development of selective flatfish trawls, with low rise head ropes and/or open or large mesh intermediates that allow rising roundfish to exit the net opening, while flatfish remain close to the net floor, passing into the net and back to the codend. Lastly, a conceptual design for a counter-herding device is presented, which takes advantage of the longer reactive distances of roundfish, and their tendency to herd farther of the seafloor, thereby allowing them to be herded out of the path of the net, while not influencing the normal inward herding of flatfish.


Last updated 31 March, 2009

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