Home range and seasonal movements of Black Sea Bass (Centropristis striata) during their inshore residency at a reef in the mid-Atlantic Bight


Fabrizio, Mary C., John P. Manderson, and Jeffrey P. Pessutti
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Black Sea Bass (Centropristis striata) in the mid-Atlantic Bight undertake seasonal cross-shelf movements to occupy inshore rocky reefs and hardbottom habitats between spring and fall. Shelf-wide migrations of this stock are well documented, but movements and home ranges of fish during their inshore residency period have not been described. We tagged 122 Black Sea Bass with acoustic transmitters at a mid-Atlantic reef to estimate home-range size and factors that influence movements (>400 m) at a 46.1-km2 study site between May and November 2003. Activity of Black Sea Bass was greatest and most consistent during summer but declined rapidly in September as water temperatures at the bottom of the seafloor increased on the inner shelf. Black Sea Bass maintained relatively large home ranges that were fish-size invariant but highly variable (13.7–736.4 ha), underscoring the importance of large sample sizes in examination of population-level characteristics of mobile species with complex social interactions. On the basis of observed variations in movement patterns and the size of home ranges, we postulate the existence of groups of conspecifics that exhibit similar space-use behaviors. The group of males released earlier in the tagging period used larger home ranges than the group of males released later in our study. In addition, mean activity levels and the probability of movement among acoustic stations varied among groups of fish in a complex manner that depended on sex. These differences in movement behaviors may increase the vulnerability of male fish to passive fishing gears, further exacerbating variation in exploitation rates for this species among reefs.