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Diel variation in feeding and movement patterns of juvenile Atlantic cod at offshore wind farms

Publication Date
  • Gadus Morhua
  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Musicology
  • Physics


Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) is a commercially important fish species suffering from overexploitation in the North-East Atlantic. In recent years, their natural environment is being intensively altered by the construction of offshore wind farms in many coastal areas. These constructions form artificial reefs influencing local biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. It has been demonstrated that Atlantic cod is present in the vicinity of these constructions. However, empirical data concerning the diel activity and feeding behaviour of Atlantic cod in the vicinity of these artificial reefs is lacking. Atlantic cod has a flexible diel activity cycle linked to spatio-temporal variations in food availability and predation risk. In this study we integrated acoustic telemetry with stomach content analysis to quantify diel activity and evaluate diel feeding patterns at a windmill artificial reef (WAR) in the Belgian part of the North Sea. Atlantic cod exhibited crepuscular movements related to feeding activity; a 12 h cycle was found and the highest catch rates and stomach fullness were recorded close to sunset and sunrise. It is suggested that the observed diel movement pattern is related to the prey species community and to predation pressure. Foraging at low ambient light levels (i.e. at dusk and dawn) probably causes a trade-off between foraging success and reducing predation pressure. Fish did not leave the area in-between feeding periods. Hence other benefits (i.e. shelter against currents and predators) besides food availability stimulate the aggregation behaviour at the WARs.

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