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Predicting availability of main tuna resource from essential habitat identification

Tuna schools tend to aggregate in hotspots of marine productivity that are detected from space. Tuna schools tend to aggregate in hotspots of marine productivity that are detected from space.
©Fotolia, author: Richard Carey
Oct 10 2017

In a new publication in Frontiers in Marine Sciences, a group of international scientists, led by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), developed habitat predictions for skipjack tuna feeding.

Those predictions can help monitor the dynamics of the population and guide the fisheries deployment and intensity.

Skipjack tuna currently accounts for about 60% of the annual global tuna catch, making it the third most fished species globally (FAO, 2014).

The proper management of this resource is therefore an important task of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 for the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources.

To make habitat predictions, the scientists used daily satellite observations and outputs from ocean models of the Copernicus Marine Services.

The recent model analyses by the JRC of the feeding habitat of skipjack tuna in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans reveal that the availability to fishing is greater when the size of favourable habitat is reduced, most likely because these populations become concentrated in smaller areas.

The observed rapid response of populations to annual changes in favourable habitats also suggests that habitat size reflects the growth capacity of this species.

Monitoring habitat size provides independent information on seasonal and inter-annual stock accessibility for fisheries. Such information offers extremely valuable insights for interpreting any changes in stock abundance observed in the assessments carried out by the tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.

Equally, it might facilitate the implementation of dynamic catch levels that could be set in line with changing resource availabilities.

Operational ecology and associated dynamic fisheries management, notably through the mapping of favourable habitats, has considerable potential and is particularly important given our rising global population and its associated protein demands.

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