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Monitoring a Massive Escape of European Sea Bass (Dicentrarchus Labrax) at an Oceanic Island: Potential Species Establishment

Besay Ramírez, Leonor Ortega, Daniel Montero, Fernando Tuya and Ricardo Haroun

The post-escape behavior of aquaculture escapees is a growing topic of research. We monitored a massive escape event of the European sea bass, Dicentrarchus labrax, which occurred at a sea-cage fish farm off the oceanic island of La Palma, Canary Islands, eastern Atlantic. Stomach contents and gonadal development of escapees were analyzed from two islands (Gran Canaria and La Palma) in order to assess the degree of postescape establishment,. We also tested (at both islands), the suitability of fatty acid profiles as biomarkers of aquaculture escapes, processing recaptured escaped fish at a range of distances away from aquaculture facilities. Escaped European sea bass concentrated within breakwaters and decreased in abundance through time after the massive escape at La Palma. Decapod crustaceans (particularly Percnon gibbesi and Rhynchocinetes sp) were the main diet constituents of escapees, followed by fishes (mainly the parrotfish, Sparisoma cretense). Only one spawner male was found. Crude lipid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, Σn-9 fatty acids and Σmonounsatured fatty acids showed higher values in cultured or escaped individuals near cages relative to fish far away from farms. Arachidonic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, Σn-3, satured fatty acids, Σn-3/Σn-6 ratio and Palmitic acid showed the opposite pattern. Our data showed that escaped European sea bass is able to exploit natural recourses, altering their fatty acid profiles relative to farmed conspecifics. The usefulness of fatty acids as biomarkers is, however, limited to a short period of time after escape events.