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Habitat use of adult Pacific bluefin tuna Thunnus orientalis during the spawning season in the Sea of Japan: evidence for a trade-off between thermal preference and reproductive activity

Ko Fujioka*, Kohei Sasagawa, Tomoyuki Kuwahara, Ethan E. Estess, Yuta Takahara, Kazuyoshi Komeyama, Takashi Kitagawa, Charles J. Farwell, Seishiro Furukawa, Junji Kinoshita, Hiromu Fukuda, Minoru Kato, Akiko Aoki, Osamu Abe, Seiji Ohshimo, Nobuaki Suzuki

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: To examine the habitat usage of adult Pacific bluefin tuna (PBF), electronic tagging was conducted in the Sea of Japan during May and June of 2012–2017. Archival tags were internally implanted and pop-up satellite archival transmitting (PAT) tags were deployed; data on the horizontal movements and diving behaviours of 36 individual PBF were successfully retrieved. In the summer spawning season, the tagged PBF were concentrated near Sado Island and Oki Island in the Sea of Japan, and they were distributed widely to the southwest (near Tsushima Island) or northeast (near the Tsugaru Strait) in the autumn and winter. We obtained the first long-term tracking record (246 days) for adult PBF, and this individual exhibited residency in a known spawning region during the spawning season in the proximity of warm-core eddy features. This fish spent most of the daytime below the thermocline between 30 and 150 m depths where the surface ambient temperature was 26.0 ± 1.5°C, but at night it ventured into the warm surface layer. Its whole-body heat transfer coefficient (k) increased when it experienced warm waters (≥24°C), which we suggest is a physiological response to avoid overheating. The mean peritoneal cavity temperature was only 1.8°C higher than the ambient temperature, compared with 6.9°C higher during the cooler autumn-winter period. Our hypothesis is that the warm surface temperatures found in the spawning grounds induce a physiology-reproduction trade-off in adult PBF that must behaviourally and physiologically thermoregulate their body temperature to gain spatial and temporal access to oceanographic conditions that may promote larval survivorship and growth.