Tracking the fidelity of Atlantic bluefin tuna released in Canadian waters to the gulf of Mexico spawning grounds

Steven G. Wilson, Ian D. Jonsen, Robert J. Schallert, James E. Ganong, Michael R. Castleton, Aaron D. Spares, Andre M. Boustany, Michael J W Stokesbury, Barbara A. Block*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    46 Citations (Scopus)


    The objective of this study was to advance the use of pop-up satellite archival tags to track the migrations of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) to their spawning grounds. Deployment of tags occurred in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada, during fall months from 2007 to 2013. Pop-up satellite archival tags (n = 135) were attached to 125 Atlantic bluefin tuna (curved fork length (CFL) = 268 ± 20 cm (mean ± SD)) with the objective of keeping tags on until visitation to a spawning area or longer. A dataset of 18 800 days was acquired, which included 5800 days of time-series data from 19 recovered satellite tags. Many Atlantic bluefin tuna visited the Gulf of Mexico spawning grounds (74%), the mean size of which was 275 ± 14 cm (CFL ± SD, n = 49), with a measured CFL of 243 to 302 cm. These fish had a mean entry date into the Gulf of Mexico of 14 January ± 42 days (SD). The mean residency period for fish that had tracks with entrance and exit from the Gulf of Mexico was 123 ± 49 days (SD) (n = 22). Atlantic bluefin tuna that moved into the Gulf of Mexico during the spawning season remained west of the 45°W meridian for the duration of the track. Electronic tagging datasets from two fish were obtained before, during, and after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Both fish utilized habitat in the vicinity of the Macondo Well on 20 April 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig accident occurred. Spawning hotspots are identified in the Gulf of Mexico using kernel density analyses and compared with the newly established closed areas.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1700-1717
    Number of pages18
    JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


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