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Predicting skipjack tuna forage distributions in the equatorial Pacific using a coupled dynamical bio-geochemical model

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Skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis) contributes ≈70% of the total tuna catch in the Pacific Ocean. This species occurs in the upper mixed-layer throughout the equatorial region, but the largest catches are taken from the warmpool in the western equatorial Pacific. Analysis of catch and effort data for US purse seine fisheries in the western Pacific has demonstrated that one of the most successful fishing grounds is located in the vicinity of a convergence zone between the warm (>28–29°C) low-salinity water of the warmpool and the cold saline water of equatorial upwelling in the central Pacific (Lehodey et al., 1997). This zone of convergence, identified by a well-marked salinity front and approximated by the 28.5°C isotherm, oscillates zonally over several thousands of km in correlation with the El Niño–Southern Oscillation. The present study focuses on the prediction of skipjack tuna forage that is expected to be a major factor in explaining the basin-scale distribution of the stock. It could also explain the close relation between displacements of skipjack tuna and the convergence zone on the eastern edge of the warmpool. A simple bio-geochemical model was coupled with a general circulation model, allowing reasonable predictions of new primary production in the equatorial Pacific from mid-1992 to mid-1995. The biological transfer of this production toward tuna forage was simply parameterized according to the food chain length and redistributed by the currents using the circulation model. Tuna forage accumulated in the convergence zone of the horizontal currents, which corresponds to the warmpool/equatorial upwelling boundary. Predicted forage maxima corresponded well with high catch rates.
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Keywords: Katsuwonus pelamis; Pacific; advection; convergence; coupled models; equatorial upwelling; secondary production; skipjack; tuna; warmpool

Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: 1: Secretariat of the Pacific Community, PO Box D5, 98848 Noumea cedex, New Caledonia, 2: ORSTOM, Noumea, New Caledonia, 3: LODYC (Université Paris 6, ORSTOM, CNRS, IFREMER), Paris, France

Publication date: 1998-12-01

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