Effects of water velocity on conditioning of summer flounder, Paralichthys dentatus, for net pens

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Attempts to rear summer flounder, Paralichthys dentatus, in net pens have suffered from high mortality during the month after fish were transferred from a nursery facility to pens. We investigated whether exposing summer flounder to increased (and constant) current velocity in the nursery stage would condition them for better performance in cages. Three experiments were conducted with different water velocities in tanks, using fish of 124±4 g (exposed to 0, 15, or 30 cm/sec for 60 d), 257±12 g (exposed to 0, 20, or 40 cm/sec for 60 d) and 387±13 g (exposed to 0, 15, or 30 cm/sec for 30 d), in a raceway system with adjustable paddlewheels. For all of the size groups of fish, survival was significantly reduced at the highest current velocity. For both 124-g and 257-g fish, growth in the medium-velocity treatment was significantly better than that in the control (0 cm/sec) treatment, which in turn was better than that in the high-velocity treatment. For 387-g fish, growth at medium velocity was significantly greater than that at high velocity; control fish were lost due to a system malfunction. Food consumption data from the 257-g fish showed that the fish in medium velocity grew most because they consumed significantly more food during the experiment than did fish in the control, which in turn consumed significantly more than fish in high velocity. Similarly, 387-g fish in medium velocity consumed the most food, but the difference was not significant in this case. At the end of the laboratory experiment with 124-g fish, fish from the control and medium-velocity treatments were moved to cages in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, where currents of about 1 knot (approx. 55 cm/second) are routine. After three weeks in the cages, no significant differences in survival were observed (control = 83±12%; medium velocity = 81±2%). Subsequent damage to some of the cages and escapement of the fish precluded further statistical analysis of survival, as well as any growth measurements. At the end of the laboratory experiment with 387-g fish, fish from medium- and high-velocity treatments were moved to the cages; however, survival in this case was very low (< 10% in all cages), perhaps due to heavy waves from an offshore hurricane. We conclude that current velocities of 15-20 cm/second in the nursery improve growth of juvenile summer flounder, that current velocities of 30-40 cm/second are excessive, but that increased current velocity in the nursery does not improve fish survival upon transfer to cages. © 2003 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Journal of Applied Aquaculture