Behavioural Responses of a Large, Benthic Elasmobranch to Catch-and-Release Angling

Edward Lavender, Dmitry Aleynik, Jane Dodd, Janine Illian, Mark James, Peter J. Wright, Sophie Smout, James Thorburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
43 Downloads (Pure)


Catch-and-release angling is widespread, but the impacts of this practice for captured individuals are understudied, especially among elasmobranchs. Studies on sub-lethal behavioural impacts are particularly sparse, despite their importance for the interpretation of biologging data and for assessments of species’ tolerance to capture. In this study, the behavioural responses of flapper skate (Dipturus intermedius) to catch-and-release angling were described for the first time, using archival observations (depth and temperature) for 21 tag deployment/retrieval events and five recreational angling events that occurred during tagged individuals’ time at liberty from charter vessels off the west coast of Scotland in 2016–17. During capture (8–50 minutes), the changes in depth and temperature experienced by individuals typically exceeded natural variability. Post-release, behavioural change was apparent from visual inspection, regression and functional data analysis of the time series. Immediately following release, movements into deeper water and short periods of low vertical activity (usually 1–2 hours in duration) were common. However, overall average vertical activity was typically around 38% higher in the 12 hours following release than in undisturbed activity. A small number of individuals (n = 3, 14%) exhibited irregular post-release behaviour in the form of rapid, transient re-ascents towards the surface following release. Collectively, the evidence for limited, short-term behavioural changes suggests that flapper skate behaviour is relatively resilient to catch-and-release angling from charter vessels, but irregular post-release behaviour in 14% of individuals is sufficiently notable to indicate that further research is required on the impacts of this practice. This study clearly demonstrates the value of biologging data and behavioural analyses for examining the impacts of disturbance and separating ‘disturbed’ and ‘undisturbed’ behaviours in studies of animal movement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number864344
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2022


  • archival
  • biologging
  • disturbance
  • management
  • Rajidae
  • recreational


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