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Application of a habitat-based model to estimate effective longline fishing effort and relative abundance of Pacific bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)

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A new habitat-based model is developed to improve estimates of relative abundance of Pacific bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus). The model provides estimates of `effective' longline effort and therefore better estimates of catch-per-unit-of-effort (CPUE) by incorporating information on the variation in longline fishing depth and depth of bigeye tuna preferred habitat. The essential elements in the model are: (1) estimation of the depth distribution of the longline gear, using information on gear configuration and ocean currents; (2) estimation of the depth distribution of bigeye tuna, based on habitat preference and oceanographic data; (3) estimation of effective longline effort, using fine-scale Japanese longline fishery data; and (4) aggregation of catch and effective effort over appropriate spatial zones to produce revised time series of CPUE. Model results indicate that effective effort has increased in both the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) and eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO). In the WCPO, effective effort increased by 43% from the late 1960s to the late 1980s due primarily to the increased effectiveness of effort (deeper longline sets) rather than to increased nominal effort. Over the same period, effective effort increased 250% in the EPO due primarily to increased nominal effort. Nominal and standardized CPUE indices in the EPO show similar trends – a decline during the 1960s, a period of stability in the 1970s, high values during 1985–1986 and a decline thereafter. In the WCPO, nominal CPUE is stable over the time-series; however, standardized CPUE has declined by ∼50%. If estimates of standardized CPUE accurately reflect relative abundance, then we have documented substantial reductions of bigeye tuna abundance for some regions in the Pacific Ocean. A decline in standardized CPUE in the subtropical gyres concurrent with stability in equatorial areas may represent a contraction in the range of the population resulting from a decline in population abundance. The sensitivity of the results to the habitat (temperature and oxygen) assumptions was tested using Monte Carlo simulations.
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Keywords: bigeye tuna; circulation models; habitat models; longline fishery; relative abundance

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Oceanic Fisheries Programme, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, B.P. D5, 98848 Noumea Cedex, New Caledonia, Japan, 2: Division of Pelagic Fish Resources, National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries, 5-7-1 Orido, Shimizu-shi, Shizuoka-ken, Japan

Publication date: 2002-05-01

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