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Spatio-temporal distribution of albacore (Thunnus alalunga) catches in the northeastern Atlantic: relationship with the thermal environment

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When the spring seasonal warming starts, North Atlantic albacore (Thunnus alalunga) juveniles and pre-adults perform a trophic migration to the northeastern Atlantic, to the Bay of Biscay and to the southeast of Ireland. During this migration, they are exploited by Spanish trolling and baitboat fleets. The present study analyzes the relationship between the albacore spatio-temporal distribution and the thermal environment. For this approach, several analyses have been performed on a database including fishing logbooks and sea surface temperature (SST) images, covering the period between 1987 and 2003. SST values and the SST gradients at the catch locations have been statistically compared to broader surrounding areas to test whether the thermal environment determines the spatial distribution of albacore. General additive models (GAM) have been used also to evaluate the relative importance of environmental variables and fleet behaviour. The results obtained show that, although juvenile albacore catch locations are affected by fleet dynamics, there is a close spatial and temporal relationship with the seasonal evolution of a statistically significant preferential SST window (16–18°C). However, differences have been identified between the relationship of albacore with SST within the Bay of Biscay in July and August (higher temperature). Such differences are found also in the spatial distribution of the catch locations; these reflect clearly the presence of two groups, differentiated after the third week of the fishing campaign at the end of June. The analysis undertaken relating the distribution of North Atlantic albacore juveniles with thermal gradients did not provide any evidence of a relationship between these catch locations and the nearby occurrence of thermal gradients.
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Keywords: Thunnus alalunga; fishing northeast Atlantic; sea surface temperature; spatio-temporal distribution; temperature gradients; tuna

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 March 2010

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