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PLoS One. 2009 Jul 7;4(7):e6151. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006151.

Seasonal movements, aggregations and diving behavior of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) revealed with archival tags.

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  • 1Tuna Research and Conservation Center, Stanford University, Hopkins Marine Station, Pacific Grove, CA, USA. walli@geoville.com

Abstract

Electronic tags were used to examine the seasonal movements, aggregations and diving behaviors of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) to better understand their migration ecology and oceanic habitat utilization. Implantable archival tags (n = 561) were deployed in bluefin tuna from 1996 to 2005 and 106 tags were recovered. Movement paths of the fish were reconstructed using light level and sea-surface-temperature-based geolocation estimates. To quantify habitat utilization we employed a weighted kernel estimation technique that removed the biases of deployment location and track length. Throughout the North Atlantic, high residence times (167+/-33 days) were identified in four spatially confined regions on a seasonal scale. Within each region, bluefin tuna experienced distinct temperature regimes and displayed different diving behaviors. The mean diving depths within the high-use areas were significantly shallower and the dive frequency and the variance in internal temperature significantly higher than during transit movements between the high-use areas. Residence time in the more northern latitude high-use areas was significantly correlated with levels of primary productivity. The regions of aggregation are associated with areas of abundant prey and potentially represent critical foraging habitats that have seasonally abundant prey. Throughout the North Atlantic mean diving depth was significantly correlated with the depth of the thermocline, and dive behavior changed in relation to the stratification of the water column. In this study, with numerous multi-year tracks, there appear to be repeatable patterns of clear aggregation areas that potentially are changing with environmental conditions. The high concentrations of bluefin tuna in predictable locations indicate that Atlantic bluefin tuna are vulnerable to concentrated fishing efforts in the regions of foraging aggregations.

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