Habitat and behaviour of yellowfin tuna Thunnus albacares in the Gulf of Mexico determined using pop-up satellite archival tags

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This study presents the first data on movement, habitat use and behaviour for yellowfin tuna Thunnus albacares in the Atlantic Basin. Six individuals were tracked in the Gulf of Mexico using pop-up satellite archival tags. Records up to 80 days in length were obtained, providing information on depth and temperature preferences as well as horizontal movements. Thunnus albacares in the Gulf of Mexico showed a strong preference for the mixed layer and thermocline, consistent with findings for this species in other ocean basins. Fish showed a diel pattern in depth distribution, remaining in surface and mixed layer waters at night and diving to deeper waters during the day. The vertical extent of T.albacares habitat appeared to be temperature limited, with fish generally avoiding waters that were >6° C cooler than surface waters. The vertical and thermal habitat usage of T.albacares differs from that of bigeye Thunnus obesus and bluefin Thunnus thynnus, Thunnus orientalis and Thunnus maccoyii tunas. These results are consistent with the results of earlier studies conducted on T.albacares in other oceans.

Keywords: by-catch; fishery management; satellite telemetry

Document Type: Regular Paper

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8649.2009.02209.x

Affiliations: 1: Biology Department, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, B3H 4J1 Canada 2: Marine Science and Conservation, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, U.S.A. 3: Institute of Marine Science, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775, U.S.A. 4: Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, U.S.A. 5: Tag-A-Giant Foundation, Babylon, NY 11702, U.S.A. 6: Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, U.S.A.

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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