Targeted bluefin fishing has been banned in the Gulf for over twenty years, but bluefin continue to be captured accidentally on pelagic longlines, often resulting in mortality. The study shows that bluefin tuna are captured in the Gulf of Mexico from January through June each year, and the highest pelagic longline catch rates are in April and May, during the bluefin spawning season.
The authors compared environmental preferences and spatio-temporal distributions of bluefin and yellowfin tuna as revealed by pelagic longline catch rates and scientific tagging cruise conducted by the Stanford University and Monterey Bay Aquarium team coupled with oceanographic data sets. Drawing on these data, a model was developed to determine the relative probability of catching bluefin and yellowfin tuna at a given place and time. This model showed that there are two major hotspot regions within the Gulf where bycatch occurs one in the eastern Gulf of Mexico to the north of the Loop Current, and the other in the western Gulf of Mexico. Both regions are along the slope where the shallow continental shelf depth changes rapidly to the deep sea. It is within these hotspots that bluefin tuna prefer to spawn in circular, swirling water masses called "cyclonic eddies." These eddies are more productive and slightly cooler than surrounding warm Gulf ocean currents. Yellowfin tuna, however, are much more widely dispersed throughout the Gulf of Mexico throughout the year.
These findings indicate that it would be possible to utilize spatial management techniques to protect western Atlantic bluefin tuna on their breeding grounds in the Gulf of Mexico without compromising the yellowfin tuna fishery, which could be carried out in other areas during the critical bl
|Contact: Randy Kochevar|
Stanford University - Hopkins Marine Station