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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 439:223-240 (2011)  -  DOI:

Potential feeding and spawning habitats of Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean Sea

Jean-Noël Druon1,*, Jean-Marc Fromentin2, Florian Aulanier1,3, Jukka Heikkonen1,4 

1Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, Maritime Affairs Unit, Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen, Via Fermi, TP 051, 21027 Ispra (VA), Italy
2IFREMER, Centre de Recherche Halieutique Méditerranéen et Tropical, Avenue Jean Monnet, BP 171, 34203 Sète, France
3Present address: Gipsa-lab, 961 rue de la Houille Blanche, BP 46, 38402 Grenoble Cedex, France
4Present address: Department of Information Technology, University of Turku, 20014 Turku, Finland

ABSTRACT: Atlantic bluefin tuna Thunnus thynnus (ABFT) is a fish of high market value which has recently become strongly overexploited, notably in the Mediterranean Sea. This area is an essential habitat for ABFT reproduction and growth. We present here an approach for deriving the daily mapping of potential ABFT feeding and spawning habitats based on satellite-derived sea surface temperature (SST) and chl a concentration. The feeding habitat was mainly derived from the simultaneous occurrence of oceanic fronts of temperature and chl a content while the spawning habitat was mostly inferred from the heating of surface waters. Generally, higher chl a contents were found to be preferred for the feeding habitat and a minimum SST value was found for the spawning habitat. Both habitats were defined by the presence of relevant oceanographic features and are therefore potential and functionally-linked habitats. This approach provides, for the first time, a synoptic view of the potential ABFT habitats in the Mediterranean Sea. The model performs well in areas where both satellite data and ABFT observations are available, as 80% of presence data are in the vicinity of potential habitats. The computed monthly, seasonal and annual maps of potential feeding and spawning habitat of ABFT from 2003 to 2009 are in good agreement with current knowledge on ABFT. Overall, the habitat size of ABFT is about 6% of the Mediterranean Sea surface. The results displayed a strong seasonality in habitat size and locations as well as high year-to-year variations (30 to 60%), particularly for the potential spawning habitat, which is key information for evaluating the utility of ABFT Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean Sea.

KEY WORDS: Habitat mapping · Bluefin tuna · Thunnus thynnus · Feeding · Spawning · Mediterranean Sea · Remote sensing · Satellite data

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Cite this article as: Druon JN, Fromentin JM, Aulanier F, Heikkonen J (2011) Potential feeding and spawning habitats of Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 439:223-240.

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