Aquaculture Environment Interactions (Oct 2021)

Impact of salmon farming on Atlantic cod spatio-temporal reproductive dynamics

  • JE Skjæraasen,
  • Ø Karlsen,
  • Ø Langangen,
  • T van der Meeren,
  • NB Keeley,
  • MS Myksvoll,
  • G Dahle,
  • E Moland,
  • R Nilsen,
  • KM Elvik Schrøder,
  • RJ Bannister,
  • EM Olsen

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 13
pp. 399 – 412


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Salmon farming in marine net pens is a major activity in many temperate regions. This industry may affect coastal ecosystems in several ways, such as with waste pollution and parasite spillover. Less is known about the extent to which salmon farming disrupts the use of inshore spawning grounds by wild fish, such as the Atlantic cod Gadus morhua. Acoustic telemetry was therefore used to explore cod space use during the spawning season in a coastal region in mid-Norway with multiple salmon farms. Acoustic receivers were placed in clusters at 5 known cod spawning grounds and 6 nearby salmon farms. Data from 481 adult cod caught at the spawning grounds during 2017-2019 and equipped with acoustic telemetry transmitters were analysed. Overall, fewer fish were detected at farms than spawning grounds, even when accounting for distance from release point. Individual cod residency (days detected / duration of spawning period) was generally higher at the spawning grounds close to farms but low at the farms themselves, with little apparent spawning at the farm localities. In contrast, spawning was clearly occurring at the nearby spawning grounds, with cod spending weeks (n = 316) or months (n = 158) there during the spawning period. Males had longer residence times at spawning grounds than females, likely linked to the cod mating system. Overall, we found little support for the assertion that salmon farms disrupt inshore spawning dynamics of cod using nearby spawning grounds presently, either by attracting spawners to farms or causing fish to leave these grounds.