Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 1199–1207 | Cite as

Fish Movement Through an Estuary Mouth Is Related to Tidal Flow

  • Alistair Becker
  • Matthew Holland
  • James A. Smith
  • Iain M. Suthers


Many species of fish move between ocean and estuarine habitats; however, there is little evidence of the magnitude of fish undertaking these movements particularly over short time scales. Such information is critical in understanding the connectivity between these major habitats. We used an acoustic camera to observe the entire entrance of a small estuary over a 4-month period during 3 h of ebb and flood tides and during day and night, which allowed us to count all fish passing through the entrance and observe their schooling behaviour. Nearly 30,000 fish transited in 60 h of observation over the study period, with a mean of 1396 (±240 S.E.) fish per 3 h deployment and a maximum of 4636 fish per 3 h. Of these, 20,170 entered the estuary while 7751 exited. Movements of fish were closely related to tidal flow when fish movement peaked during the middle of the tide. While the majority of fish swam with the tide, approximately 32 % swam against the tidal current. The schooling behaviour of transiting fish varied between fish entering and exiting the estuary, with incoming fish far more likely to school than those exiting. This may be an antipredator behaviour but also related to group navigation. This study has provided insights into the tight coupling of estuaries and ocean, and the tidal influence on the mass movements of fish.


Connectivity Tidal flow Diel Estuary Ocean Fish behaviour Acoustic camera 



Funding for this research was provided by the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science (BEES) at the University of New South Wales. The DIDSON was funded by Australian Research Council grant LE10010059. Logistical support and advice was provided by the Warringah Council.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alistair Becker
    • 1
    • 2
  • Matthew Holland
    • 1
  • James A. Smith
    • 1
  • Iain M. Suthers
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Biological Earth and Environmental ScienceUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.NSW Department of Primary IndustriesPort Stephens Fisheries InstituteNelson BayAustralia
  3. 3.Sydney Institute for Marine ScienceMosmanAustralia

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