Working with pelagic longline vessel captains Scott Drabinowicz and John Caldwell of the FV Eagle Eye II out of Fairhaven, Mass., Lutcavage, with LPRC colleagues Tim Lam and doctoral candidate Ben Galuardi, deployed 21 pop-up satellite archival tags (PSAT) on adult bigeye tuna between 2008 and 2010 in the northwest Atlantic. The sea captains fit tags on fish in good condition and return them to the sea. The PSATs were programmed to record relative light level, temperature and pressure (depth) every two minutes for eight or 12 months.
Lutcavage, Lam and Galuardi were able to collect full-resolution time series data from a total of nine tags, providing data ranging from one to 292 days. The team also downloaded remote sensing and climatological information from the NOAA to characterize possible associations between bigeye tuna movement and behavior and environmental factors.
Among variables they analyzed were the bigeyes' use of the deep scattering layer for foraging. That is an ocean layer of marine life that rises and falls in relation to diurnal vertical migration. The researchers also looked at lunar influences on swimming depth, horizontal movements, plus vertical activity and factors influencing it such as temperature.
Lam explains, "Bigeye tuna dive deeply, like clockwork, at dusk and dawn, making it hard to use light-based geolocation methods to estimate their daily locations. Here, we showcase a new positioning technique to get around the problem of low light levels at depth by using temperature and the bigeyes' spatial ecology and movements in the western Atlantic. But there's much more to learn."
The authors hope their results will inform the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna's upcoming tagging effort and assist ICCAT scientists as they plan new research to better understand the population
|Contact: Janet Lathrop|
University of Massachusetts at Amherst