Throughout the western Atlantic Ocean, tropical tunas—including bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus), yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), and skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis)—are extensively harvested by large, international commercial and recreational fisheries. As highly migratory species, tropical tunas often cross numerous international boundaries during their seasonal migrations. Thus, coordinated, international fisheries management is required to maintain sustainable fisheries and ensure species conservation.
Species identification characteristics of yellowfin, bigeye, and skipjack tuna provided by ICCAT (top). Images in bottom row taken from IGFA.
Since 1969, the task of managing and conserving tuna and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas has been the responsibility of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), an intergovernmental, regional fisheries management organization (aka “RFMO”) that currently consists of 52 sovereign nations. In addition to overseeing the activities of all contracting parties, ICCAT conducts work to collect and analyze information for the fishery resources that are harvested under the Convention. This includes, among other things, monitoring fishery landings, executing population (“stock”) assessments, and establishing science-based fishing regulations and/or conservation measures that permit the maximum sustainable catch of a species.
ICCAT also oversees and coordinates research on tuna and tuna-like species, placing particular emphasis on research questions that directly address stock status and structure in the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic Ocean Tropical Tuna Tagging Program (AOTTP) is one such research endeavor established by ICCAT in 2015 to study key aspects of bigeye, skipjack, and yellowfin tuna life history and movements in the Atlantic Ocean.
Over a five-year period, the AOTTP aims to partner with scientists and commercial and recreational tuna fishermen to tag at least 120,000 tropical tuna with conventional and/or electronic tags throughout the Atlantic.
The data generated from these tags will not only improve our scientific understanding of tropical tuna in the Atlantic, but also enhance fisheries management and promote fisheries sustainability.
As part of the AOTTP, Dr. Jeff Kneebone of the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life will be working with lead principal investigator Dr. Walt Golet from the University of Maine and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, as well as colleagues from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, University of Miami, and NOAA Fisheries, to deploy 5,000 conventional tags on bigeye, skipjack, and yellowfin tuna in the western Atlantic from Canada to Venezuela, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.
To do this, we need your help!
If you are interested in participating in the AOTTP project and would like to volunteer to tag bigeye, skipjack, and yellowfin tuna, simply contact Dr. Walt Golet (firstname.lastname@example.org) and he will provide you with more information on how to become involved in this free program.
Signing up is easy. Just provide your contact information and mailing address and we will send you all the necessary information, instructions, and materials to start tagging tropical tuna. Every fish tagged will not only allow you to become involved in important scientific research, but also give you a chance to win one of 20 individual cash prizes totaling more than $39,000 to be awarded at the end of the project!
Whether you rely on tropical tunas for your business, or simply enjoy spending time on the water targeting them, this is a great opportunity to take an active role in the collection of scientific data that will promote more sustainable fisheries, and preserve tropical tuna fishing opportunities in the western Atlantic.
Study participants: Dr. Walt Golet (University of Maine, Gulf of Maine Research Institute), Dr. Jeff Kneebone (Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, New England Aquarium), Dr. Craig Brown, Eric Orbesen, Derke Snodgrass (NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Fisheries Science Center), Dr. John Hoolihan (University of Miami)