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Expanding dead zones shrinking tropical blue marlin habitat
Date:12/9/2011

The science behind counting fish in the ocean to measure their abundance has never been simple. A new scientific paper authored by NOAA Fisheries biologist Eric Prince, Ph.D., and eight other scientists shows that expanding ocean dead zones driven by climate change have added a new wrinkle to that science.

In the December 4 paper published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, these scientists sound an alarm that expanding ocean dead zones are shrinking the habitat for high value fish such as marlins in the tropical northeast Atlantic Ocean. As dead zones expand, marlins, other billfish and tunas move into surface waters where they are more vulnerable to fishing. Dead zones are areas in the ocean where oxygen levels are so low that creatures cannot survive over the long term.

"By combining the disciplines of oceanography and fishery biology, we are getting a much clearer picture of how climate driven dead zones are shrinking the habitat for some of the world's most valuable fish to commercial and recreational fishermen," Prince said. "With a clearer picture, we will be able to make better management decisions for the long-term health of these species and their ecosystems."

In the past, Prince has studied the movement of marlins and other billfish in ocean waters off Florida and the Caribbean as well as in the tropical waters of the eastern Pacific. The new paper combines Prince's research on marlins in the northeast tropical Atlantic Ocean off Africa with oceanographic research in the same waters by Lothar Stramma and his colleagues at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Science in Kiel, Germany, as well as scientists at the University of Miami Rosensteil School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Prince tagged blue marlin, one of the most valuable recreational species on the planet, with pop up satellite tracking devices to record their horizontal and vertical movement. He compared this information on fish
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Contact: Monica Allen
monica.allen@noaa.gov
30-142-780-282-023-796-69
NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service
Source:Eurekalert

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