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

movement with detailed oceanographic maps developed by Stramma and his colleagues on the same ocean areas showing the location of zones with low dissolved oxygen. Prince, Stramma and Sunke Schmidtko, who was at NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle at the time of the research, are the three equally contributing first authors of the paper.

Blue marlins and many other billfish are high energy fish that need large amounts of dissolved oxygen. By comparing the movement of the blue marlins and the location of low-oxygen areas, the scientists show that blue marlins venture deeper when dissolved oxygen levels are higher and remain in shallower surface waters when low dissolved oxygen areas encroach on their habitat from below.

"The shrinking of habitat due to expanding dead zones needs to be taken into account in scientific stock assessments and management decisions for tropical pelagic billfish and tuna," said Prince. "Without taking it into account, stock assessments could be providing false signals that stocks are healthy, when in fact they are not, thus allowing overfishing that further depletes these fish stocks and threatens the sustainability of our fisheries."

While the new paper focuses on the tropical northeast Atlantic Ocean off Africa, the expansion of low-oxygen zones is occurring in all tropical ocean basins and throughout the subarctic Pacific, making the compression of habitat a global issue. The problem for pelagic fishes in the tropical Atlantic is particularly acute, the authors note, because many of these fish species and the unintended catch, called bycatch, are already fully exploited or overfished.

The new paper follows earlier research by Prince published in 2010 in Fisheries Oceanography based on tagging of marlins and sailfish in the waters off Florida and the Caribbean, which also showed these billfish prefer oxygen-rich waters close to the surface and move away from waters low in dissolv
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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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