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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Seasonal migrations of the European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax L.) in UK and surrounding waters

Wright, Serena; Griffiths, Christopher A.; Bendall, Victoria; Righton, David; Hyder, Kieran; Hunter, Ewan


The movements and behaviour of mature European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax L.) in UK waters have not been studied extensively since a series of mark-recapture experiments during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. To better understand the timing and extent of seasonal migrations, 171 mature sea bass > 42 cm were internally tagged with floated electronic tags programmed to record temperature and depth, and released in the English Channel, in the southern North Sea and in the Irish Sea. Among the 48 tags returned to date, sea bass were at liberty for 370 +/- 337 days and were recovered 172 +/- 200 km from their respective release locations. Most tags were recovered from beaches (54%), or via the fishery (44%). A comparison of the reconstructed tracks from returned electronic tags with the recapture locations of 237 mark-recapture returns (6.5%) from 3615 sea bass released between 1970 and 2020 showed strong overlap. Seasonal movements between shallow areas (Q2-Q3) and deeper spawning areas (Q4-Q1) were accompanied by elevated vertical swimming speeds and average water temperatures of 8.5 degrees C in the English Channel and Irish Sea, but lower temperatures in the North Sea. Movements between the Celtic Sea/Irish Sea and the North Sea and vice versa demonstrate high levels of connectivity in UK waters. We demonstrate that a proportion of sea bass remained resident within the North Sea throughout the year, with a strong suggestion that spawning might be occurring. These data have significant implications for the future sustainable management of sea bass stocks in UK and surrounding waters.


Sea bass; Migration; Site fidelity; Spawning; Connectivity

Published in

Movement Ecology
2024, Volume: 12, number: 1, article number: 45
Publisher: BMC

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Fish and Aquacultural Science

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