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Horizontal and vertical movements of juvenile bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) in relation to seasons and oceanographic conditions in the eastern Pacific Ocean

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Abstract:

Abstract

Electronically tagged juvenile Pacific bluefin, Thunnus orientalis, were released off Baja California in the summer of 2002. Time-series data were analyzed for 18 fish that provided a record of 380 ± 120 days (mean ± SD) of ambient water and peritoneal cavity temperatures at 120 s intervals. Geolocations of tagged fish were estimated based on light-based longitude and sea surface temperature-based latitude algorithms. The horizontal and vertical movement patterns of Pacific bluefin were examined in relation to oceanographic conditions and the occurrence of feeding events inferred from thermal fluctuations in the peritoneal cavity. In summer, fish were located primarily in the Southern California Bight and over the continental shelf of Baja California, where juvenile Pacific bluefin use the top of the water column, undertaking occasional, brief forays to depths below the thermocline. In autumn, bluefin migrated north to the waters off the Central California coast when thermal fronts form as the result of weakened equatorward wind stress. An examination of ambient and peritoneal temperatures revealed that bluefin tuna fed during this period along the frontal boundaries. In mid-winter, the bluefin returned to the Southern California Bight possibly because of strong downwelling and depletion of prey species off the Central California waters. The elevation of the mean peritoneal cavity temperature above the mean ambient water temperature increased as ambient water temperature decreased. The ability of juvenile bluefin tuna to maintain a thermal excess of 10°C occurred at ambient temperatures of 11–14°C when the fish were off the Central California coast. This suggests that the bluefin maintain peritoneal temperature by increasing heat conservation and possibly by increasing internal heat production when in cooler waters. For all of the Pacific bluefin tuna, there was a significant correlation between their mean nighttime depth and the visible disk area of the moon.

Keywords: archival tag; bluefin tuna; eastern Pacific Ocean; feeding event; horizontal and vertical movements; upwelling indices

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2419.2007.00441.x

Affiliations: 1: Stanford University, Tuna Research and Conservation Center, Hopkins Marine Station, Oceanview Blvd., Pacific Grove, CA 93950-3094, USA 2: Tuna Research and Conservation Center, Monterey Bay Aquarium, 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2007

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