Do the visual conditions at the point of escape affect European sea bass escape behavior?
GONZALEZ, L. PNG
European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax), an important species for the Mediterranean aquaculture industry, has been reported to escape from sea cage installations. Fish escapes are caused mainly by operational and technical failures that eventually result into a creation of a tear. Escapees may interact with wild stocks through interbreeding, transfer of pathogens and competition for food. The aim of this study was to examine at which extent the presence of a visible obstacle close to a tear on the net have an influence on sea bass propensity to escape. Fish were initially confined into small sea cages, with a tear at one side. The escape behavior was tested under experimental conditions. It is clearly demonstrated that sea bass was able to locate a tear on the net pen, immediately after its appearance. Crossings occurred in all cages, in singles or in a series of up to seven individuals. The presence of an obstacle close to the net tear altered the escape behavior of D. labrax resulting in a delay that eventually reduced the escape rate. Concluding, it is highly recommended that sea bass cages should be kept internally the culture array. Furthermore, the placement of artificial obstacles close to the sea cages could be an efficient practice that mitigates the escape risk after severe environmental conditions.
Cage aquaculture, escape, European sea bass, behavior, obstacle, net pen.