Oxygen gradients affect behaviour of caged Atlantic salmon Salmo salar
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionAquaculture Environment Interactions. 2017, 9 (1), 145-153. 10.3354/aei00219
Dissolved oxygen (DO) conditions in marine aquaculture cages are heterogeneous and fluctuate rapidly. Here, by temporarily wrapping a tarpaulin around the top 0 to 6 m of a marine cage (~2000 m3), we manipulated DO to evaluate the behavioural response of Atlantic salmon Salmo salar to hypoxia. Videos were recorded before, during and after DO manipulation at 3 m depth while vertical profiles of temperature, salinity, DO and fish density were continuously measured. The trial was repeated 4 times over a 2 wk period. Temperature and salinity profiles varied little across treatment periods; however, DO saturation was reduced at all depths in all replicate trials during the tarpaulin treatment compared to the periods before or after. In 3 out of 4 trials, swim speeds were 1.5 to 2.7 times slower during the tarpaulin treatment than the before or after periods. Significant changes in vertical distribution of fish density and DO were observed between treatment periods in all replicate trials; salmon swam either above or below the most hypoxic depth layer (59 to 62% DO saturation). In a regression tree analysis, the relative influence of DO in determining fish distribution was 17%, while temperature (39%) and salinity (44%) explained the majority of variation. Our results demonstrate that salmon are capable of modifying their distribution and possibly activity levels in response to intermediate DO levels, but that DO is not a primary driver of behaviour at the saturation levels examined in this study.