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Census of Marine Life historians detail collapse of bluefin tuna population off northern Europe

in U.S. waters. The spawning stock has dropped 90% in the past 30 years.

Using data from 28 tagged Atlantic bluefins (recording location, depth, water temperature, light level and the tunas abdominal temperature), the researchers correlated the breeding behaviours revealed by the tags with a suite of variables at those locations, including sea surface temperature, current and wind speed, topography of the ocean floor, eddies, and surface chlorophyll concentrations.

They found a majority of bluefin (some weighing up to 300 kilograms) gravitated to areas near the Florida straits and the western part of the Gulf of Mexico to reproduce and that the favourite places tend to be where sea surface temperatures are 24 to 27 degrees Celsius and where the slope of the shelf is steep. Even a relatively small change in the distribution of sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico will likely cause a change in the timing and location of spawning, the authors say.

Companion research says the tags recorded remarkable behaviour shifts among tuna breeding in this region, including shallower, more oscillatory diving and a tendency to stay near the surface. Lingering in the region, the courting and breeding fish also made more sinuous tracks.

As well, says lead author Steve Teo: We found that bluefin get warm when they undergo courtship and our physiological measurements indicate they are vulnerable to overheating while in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf of Mexico eddies tornado-like features that move counter-clockwise and cause a retention of food -- may also play an important role in the bluefins breeding process.

The bluefin showed a preference for regions of the Gulf of Mexico information that can help map where they spawn, says Dr. Teo.

Funded by NOAA Fisheries, the National Science Foundation and the Packard, Pew, Disney and Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundations, the researchers say bluefin tuna breeding are
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Contact: Terry Collins
terrycollins@rogers.com
416-538-8712
Census of Marine Life
5-Aug-2007


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