Characterizing walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) winter distribution from opportunistic acoustic data

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Abstract

In 2003, acoustic data from 25 000 km of ship track lines were collected from two fishing vessels participating in the eastern Bering Sea walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) fishery. Although these data were not calibrated or collected on a systematic grid, their broad temporal extent combined with high spatial resolution facilitated the examination of the distribution and behaviour of fished aggregations. To demonstrate their scientific applicability, these data were used to identify the spatio-temporal dynamics of pollock aggregations over scales ranging from hundreds of metres to hundreds of kilometres and from minutes to months. The spatial analysis identified three levels of pollock aggregation. The largest regions of high pollock density had an average diameter of 110 km and were comparable with distinct fishing grounds identified by fishers. The next smaller areas of high pollock density had a diameter between 2.5 and 6 km. Within these areas were clusters of pollock at even higher densities. The extent of the smallest aggregations ranged in diameter from 0.1 km in daylight to 0.6 km at night. Time-series analysis identified vertical and horizontal diel changes in pollock distribution and an overall decline in pollock density over the study period.

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