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Marine Sciences and Technology
Master of Science (M.S.)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
striped bass, distribution, tagging, Massachusetts, migration
This is the first study to assess how the coastal migratory stock of striped bass (Morone saxatilis) uses non-natal New England estuaries during their foraging migration. Using hydroacoustic telemetry from June through October in Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts, I examined how long coastal migratory striped bass stayed throughout the seasons, if they were equally distributed, if individual striped bass were distributed differently, and if distribution changed with season, tide, or light. Striped bass, ages 2-5 (300-480 mm), were tagged with VEMCO transmitters in the spring and summer of 2005 (N=14) and 2006 (N=46). They stayed for an average of 66 days in 2005 (SE=7.6) and 72 days in 2006 (SE=6.2). Of the fish tagged in 2005 and 2006, 60% remained for longer than 30 days. This might reflect two striped bass migration strategies: 1) transient migration, in which striped bass visit many estuaries, and 2) estuary-specific, in which they reside in a single location for the summer. The amount of time the striped bass spent in six reaches delineated within the estuary was quantified. Striped bass were not evenly distributed across these reaches. Instead, they spent the most time in the mid Plum Island Sound and lower Rowley River reaches in both years. Three different uses of PIE were observed. Some striped bass stayed briefly (5-20 d; N=24), some stayed primarily in the Rowley River (N=14), and others stayed primarily in Plum Island Sound (N=22). Striped bass use of the mid Plum Island Sound and lower Rowley River reaches remained consistently high in spring and summer, but decreased in fall, while use of the lower Plum Island Sound did not vary much. Use of other reaches varied seasonally. Tide and light were less associated with distribution, but in the summer the Rowley River use-group increased utilization of tidal creeks during the day, though not at high tide. These three use-groups identified in Plum Island Estuary may be foraging contingents that may learn how to forage in specific parts of the estuary demonstrated by over half the striped bass remaining for much of the summer and congregating in distinct areas.
Martha E Mather