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New study maps spawning habitat of bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico
Date:5/29/2010

Electronic tagging and fisheries catch data have revealed pronounced differences in preferred habitat of Atlantic bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico, despite their close ancestry, according to a new study published today in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE. Bluefin tuna return to the same regions of the Gulf of Mexico during spring months to spawn. The bluefin are selecting a particular habitat along the slope waters of the Gulf of Mexico, which has unique oceanographic properties that are predictable and can be seen from satellites. Yellowfin tuna are more widely distributed throughout the warm Gulf waters and occupy the region throughout the year.

"The bluefins' habitat requirements are relatively exact so we can predict with reasonable accuracy where bluefin tuna are likely to be spawning at any given time based on oceanographic data continually being gathered by satellites and weather buoys," said lead author Steven Teo of the University of California at Davis. "This is in stark contrast to yellowfin tuna, which exhibit much more generalized environmental preferences." The fidelity to breeding areas over time detected in this study is reminiscent of salmon returning to their natal stream to spawn.

Bluefin tuna are among the most valuable fish in global markets. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT, http://www.iccat.int) currently manages the Atlantic bluefin tuna as two distinct populations, with western Atlantic spawners of the Gulf of Mexico forming a distinct population genetically from the eastern spawners of the Mediterranean Sea. The western Atlantic stock has suffered a significant decline in spawning stock biomass since 1950, and a 20-year rebuilding plan has failed to revive the population or the North American fishery. The failure of the Gulf of Mexico spawning population to rebuild, as well as the scope of illegal and under-
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Contact: Randy Kochevar
kochevar@stanford.edu
831-655-6225
Stanford University - Hopkins Marine Station
Source:Eurekalert  

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