The reactions of shoaling adult cod to a pelagic trawl: implications for commercial trawling

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The reactions of shoaling adult Atlantic cod to a pelagic trawl were measured during fishing off the north coast of Norway. Cod remaining in the trawl track dived at rates as fast as 0.35 m s−1 following vessel passage and swam away from the vessel, in the direction of the approaching trawl, at an average rate of 0.6 m s−1. They did not attempt to swim ahead of the trawl as documented previously, but passed into the lower half of the trawl entrance and swam slowly in the direction of trawling at a rate of 0.2–0.5 m s−1 as the trawl's greater speed through water carried them deeper into the trawl. Shoals compressed vertically once inside the trawl, suggesting that packing density increased at least fourfold. Fish remained in the lower part of the trawl as they moved through its tapered section towards the codend, with little to no clearance above the bottom panel, but significant clearance beneath the top panel. Catches were sufficient to support commercial harvest, and the behaviour observed suggests that changes in trawl design and fishing strategy might improve fuel economy and species selectivity.

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