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Movement and predation: a catch-and-release study on the acoustic tracking of bonefish in the Indian Ocean

Moxham, Emily J., Cowley, Paul D., Bennett, Rhett H., von Brandis, Rainer G.
Environmental biology of fishes 2019 v.102 no.2 pp. 365-381
Albula vulpes, acoustics, atolls, fish, habitats, islands, issues and policy, mortality, predation, sand, statistical models, telemetry, tourism, water temperature, Indian Ocean, Seychelles
Tourism generated through bonefish (Albula spp.) fishing contributes to the economies of many isolated tropical islands and atolls. However, little research has been conducted on bonefish in the Indian Ocean. This study aimed to contribute to the understanding of bonefish ecology in the Indian Ocean by quantifying the spatial and temporal movements of Albula glossodonta at a near-pristine and predator-rich atoll in the Seychelles; however, to achieve this, an analysis to identify the occurrence of possible post-release predation bias was first necessary. An acoustic telemetry study was initiated at the remote St. Joseph Atoll, within an array of 88 automated data-logging acoustic receivers. Thirty bonefish were surgically implanted with Vemco V13 acoustic transmitters and tracked for one year. Only 10% of the tagged bonefish were detected for longer than two weeks. A comparison of the final 100 h of movement data from fish detected for less than two weeks to the movement data of the fish detected for longer periods revealed distinct differences in area use and significant differences in the average daily distance moved, speed of movement and frequency of detections. This suggested that mortality in the form of post-release predation was at least 43% of tagged fish. The three surviving bonefish were tracked for 210 to 367 days. These individuals remained in the atoll and showed high use of the marginal habitats between the shallow sand flats and the lagoon. A generalised linear mixed model identified that water temperature, diel cycle and tide were significant predictors of bonefish presence in the lagoon. The high post-release mortality highlights that catch-and-release is likely not as benign as previously believed and management and policy should be adjusted accordingly.