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Electronic tags reveal transatlantic migrations and breeding grounds of Atlantic bluefin tuna

Bluefin tuna tagged in the Western Atlantic with electronic data recording tags are mixing on their feeding grounds but moving to distinct spawning grounds in the Western Atlantic and the Eastern Mediterranean.

These and other significant insights into the migrations, diving patterns, thermal biology and environmental preferences of the prized warm-blooded giants are described in a new study in the journal Science. The findings emerged from five years of electronic tagging by scientists with the Tuna Research and Conservation Center in Pacific Grove, California. The center is a joint project of Stanfords Hopkins Marine Station and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The tagging research a collaboration of scientists from Stanford, the Aquarium and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) was led by Barbara A. Block, the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Professor in Marine Science at Stanford and lead author of the Aug. 17 Science study.

The majestic bluefin, which can grow to be 10 feet (305 centimeters) long and weigh 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms), is so commercially valuable that, in January, a single fish weighing 444 pounds (201 kilograms) sold at auction for $175,000 in the Tokyo seafood market. Atlantic bluefin in that market routinely sell for $8 to $45 per pound.

Commercial harvesting of bluefin and other Atlantic tuna is managed through catch quotas established by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) based in Madrid, Spain.

Transatlantic migrations

In the Science study, Block and her colleagues analyzed data recovered from electronic tags placed on Atlantic bluefin tuna off the East Coast of North America starting in 1996. Three hundred and seventy-seven (377) tags were deployed on fish weighing between 250 and 800 pounds (113 and 363 kilograms). To date, 49 have been recovered. Most of the electronic tags were "archival" tags that scientists surgically implanted
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Contact: Ken Peterson, Monterey Bay Aquarium
831-648-4922
Stanford University
16-Aug-2001


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