Royal Society Publishing

Migration route and spawning area fidelity by North Sea plaice

Ewan Hunter, Julian D. Metcalfe, John D. Reynolds

Abstract

Data from plaice, Pleuronectes platessa L., tagged with electronic data storage tags, were used to test whether these fishes exhibited migration route and spawning area fidelity in successive spawning seasons. Depth and temperature data were recorded for each fish over 365–512 days in the central North Sea and this information was used to reconstruct movements based on tidal locations. We discovered highly directed seasonal migrations from the winter spawning area south of a major topographical feature, Dogger Bank Tail End, to summer feeding grounds 250 km to the north in deep, cold, thermally stratified water. Our results show synchronous timing of migration, repeated pre– and post–spawning migration routes and 100% spawning area fidelity, including two individuals that returned to within 20 km of their previous season's spawning location. This is the first study to provide a complete reconstruction of annual migrations by individual fishes, showing strong homing behaviour along consistent migration routes.

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