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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 504:265-276 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10781

Crossing the line: migratory and homing behaviors of Atlantic bluefin tuna

Jay R. Rooker1,*, Haritz Arrizabalaga2, Igaratza Fraile2, David H. Secor3, David L. Dettman4, Noureddine Abid5, Piero Addis6, Simeon Deguara7, F. Saadet Karakulak8, Ai Kimoto9, Osamu Sakai9, David Macías10, Miguel Neves Santos11

1Department of Marine Biology, Texas A&M University, 1001 Texas Clipper Road, Galveston, Texas 77553 USA
2AZTI Tecnalia, Marine Research Division, Herrea Kaia, Portualdea z/g 20110 Pasaia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
3Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, PO Box 38, Solomons, Maryland 20688, USA
4Environmental Isotope Laboratory, Department of Geosciences, 1040 E. 4th Street, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
85721, USA
5Institut National de la Recherche Halieutique, INRH, Regional Centre of Tangier, BP: 5268, Dradeb, Tangier, Morocco
6Department of Life Science and Environment, University of Cagliari, Via Fiorelli 1, 09126 Cagliari, Italy
7Federation of Maltese Aquaculture Producers 54, St. Christopher Str., Valletta VLT 1462, Malta
8Faculty of Fisheries, Istanbul University, Ordu Cad. N° 200, 34470 Laleli, Istanbul, Turkey
9National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries, 5-7-1 Orido Shimizu, Shizuoka, Japan
10Spanish Institute of Oceanography, Corazón de María 8, 28002 Madrid, Spain
11Instituto Nacional dos Recursos Biológicos (INRB I.P. IPIMAR), Avenida 5 de Outubro s/n, 8700-305 Olhao, Portugal
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Assessment and management of Atlantic bluefin tuna Thunnus thynnus populations is hindered by our lack of knowledge regarding trans-Atlantic movement and connectivity of eastern and western populations. Here, we evaluated migratory and homing behaviors of bluefin tuna in several regions of the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea using chemical tags (δ13C and δ18O) in otoliths. Significant emigration of bluefin tuna from their place of origin was inferred from otolith δ13C and δ18O, with both eastern and western bluefin tuna commonly ‘crossing the line’ (45° W management boundary) in the Central North Atlantic Ocean and mixing with the other population. Several western migrants were also detected in Moroccan traps off the coast of Africa, indicating that trans-Atlantic movement occurs for members of the western population; however, the degree of mixing declined with proximity to the eastern spawning area (Mediterranean Sea). The origin of bluefin tuna collected at the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar and from several regions within the Mediterranean Sea (Balearic Islands, Malta, and Sardinia) was essentially 100% eastern fish, demonstrating that natal homing is well developed by the eastern population, with western migrants rarely entering the Mediterranean Sea.


KEY WORDS: Stable isotopes · Nursery origin · Otolith chemistry · Stock structure · Population connectivity · Migration · Philopatry


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Cite this article as: Rooker JR, Arrizabalaga H, Fraile I, Secor DH and others (2014) Crossing the line: migratory and homing behaviors of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 504:265-276. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10781

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