A first-of-its-kind study of bigeye tuna movements in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean led by Molly Lutcavage, director of the Large Pelagics Research Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, found among other things that these fish cover a wide geographical range with pronounced north-south movements from Georges Bank to the Brazilian shelf, and they favor a high-use area off Cape Hatteras southwest of Bermuda for foraging.
This NOAA-funded research, which used a new approach to study one of the most important commercial tuna species in the Atlantic, provides the longest available fishery-independent record of bigeye tuna movements to date. Data should help researchers to further characterize habitat use and assess the need for more monitoring in high-catch areas.
Results appear this week in an early online edition of the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science.
Fisheries oceanographer Lutcavage says, “Although Atlantic bigeye tuna are delivering high prices to the U.S. commercial fleet and are highly sought by recreational fishermen and fishing tournaments, there’s been a surprising lack of scientific research on this species.
And in contrast to the Pacific, where tuna fisheries programs have deployed over 400,000 tags over 25 years, the Atlantic lacks the fisheries infrastructure that would increase the odds of recovering tags. We have to rely on popup satellite tags that are fishery independent to make sure we get information back from the tuna.”
Two earlier electronic tagging studies by others yielded relatively short tracking data, 113 days or fewer, and did not allow for seasonal analysis of movement or exploration of an alternate stock composition hypotheses, Lutcavage and colleagues note. Bigeye are currently managed as a single Atlantic stock, she explains, and the greater resolution of habitat use and migratory behavior revealed in this study are important first steps towards determining whether or not a more complex management approach may be warranted.
Working with pelagic longline vessel captains Scott Drabinowicz and John Caldwell of the FV Eagle Eye II out of Fairhaven, Mass., Lutcavage, with LPRC colleagues Tim Lam and doctoral candidate Ben Galuardi, deployed 21 pop-up satellite archival tags (PSAT) on adult bigeye tuna between 2008 and 2010 in the northwest Atlantic.
The sea captains fit tags on fish in good condition and return them to the sea. The PSATs were programmed to record relative light level, temperature and pressure (depth) every two minutes for eight or 12 months.
Lutcavage, Lam and Galuardi were able to collect full-resolution time series data from a total of nine tags, providing data ranging from one to 292 days. The team also downloaded remote sensing and climatological information from the NOAA to characterize possible associations between bigeye tuna movement and behavior and environmental factors.
Among variables they analyzed were the bigeyes’ use of the deep scattering layer for foraging. That is an ocean layer of marine life that rises and falls in relation to diurnal vertical migration. The researchers also looked at lunar influences on swimming depth, horizontal movements, plus vertical activity and factors influencing it such as temperature.
Lam explains, “Bigeye tuna dive deeply, like clockwork, at dusk and dawn, making it hard to use light-based geolocation methods to estimate their daily locations. Here, we showcase a new positioning technique to get around the problem of low light levels at depth by using temperature and the bigeyes’ spatial ecology and movements in the western Atlantic. But there’s much more to learn.”
The authors hope their results will inform the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna’s upcoming tagging effort and assist ICCAT scientists as they plan new research to better understand the population.
Alain Fonteneau, an emeritus scientist at France’s Institut de Recherches pour le Développement and a recognized expert member of scientific panels that manage regional tuna fisheries worldwide, called this work “fantastic.” He says, “Although we don’t see major unexpected surprises in these results, as we often see with Atlantic bluefin tuna results, this paper is the first one in the scientific literature to provide very new and very interesting results on bigeye vertical and geographical movements in the western Atlantic,” he points out.
Fonteneau adds, “Although these real observations are based on a small number of PSAT tags, they are much more comprehensive than the traditional catch-and-effort fishery data, at one time the only type available to ICCAT tuna scientists. It would clearly be of major scientific interest to develop this type of work at the scale of the entire Atlantic Ocean.”
Janet Lathrop | Eurek Alert!
Researchers observe major hand hygiene problems in operating rooms
30.03.2015 | University of Gothenburg
Electric vehicle range in 450,000 kilometer real-world test
30.03.2015 | Technische Universität Chemnitz
In an experiment at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists precisely measured the temperature and structure of aluminum as...
The IPH presents a solution at HANNOVER MESSE 2015 to make ship traffic more reliable while decreasing the maintenance costs at the same time. In cooperation with project partners, the research institute from Hannover, Germany, has developed a sensor system which continuously monitors the condition of the marine gearbox, thus preventing breakdowns. Special feature: the monitoring system works wirelessly and energy-autonomously. The required electrical power is generated where it is needed – directly at the sensor.
As well as cars need to be certified regularly (in Germany by the TÜV – Technical Inspection Association), ships need to be inspected – if the powertrain stops...
When an earthquake hits, the faster first responders can get to an impacted area, the more likely infrastructure--and lives--can be saved.
The Atlantic overturning is one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards. Also known as the Gulf Stream system, it is responsible for the mild climate in northwestern Europe.
Scientists now found evidence for a slowdown of the overturning – multiple lines of observation suggest that in recent decades, the current system has been...
Because they are regularly subjected to heavy vehicle traffic, emissions, moisture and salt, above- and underground parking garages, as well as bridges, frequently experience large areas of corrosion. Most inspection systems to date have only been capable of inspecting smaller surface areas.
From April 13 to April 17 at the Hannover Messe (hall 2, exhibit booth C16), engineers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing IZFP will be...
25.03.2015 | Event News
19.03.2015 | Event News
17.03.2015 | Event News
30.03.2015 | Press release
30.03.2015 | Life Sciences
30.03.2015 | Earth Sciences