Marine Biology

, Volume 152, Issue 3, pp 503–525 | Cite as

Movements, behavior, and habitat utilization of yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, ascertained through archival tag data

  • Kurt M. SchaeferEmail author
  • Daniel W. Fuller
  • Barbara A. Block
Research Article


Sixty-eight yellowfin tuna, Thunnus albacares, (60-135 cm fork length) were caught and released with implanted archival tags offshore off Baja California, Mexico, during October 2002 and October 2003. Thirty-six fish (53%) were recaptured and the data were downloaded from all 36 recovered tags. Time at liberty ranged from 9 to 1,161 days, and the data were analyzed for the 20 fish that were at liberty for 154 or more days. The accuracy in the position estimates, derived from light-level longitude data and sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) based latitude, is about 0.41° in longitude and 0.82° in latitude, in this region. The movement paths, derived from position estimates, for the 20 yellowfin indicated that 19 (95%) remained within 1,445 km of their release locations. The estimated mean velocity along movement paths was 77 km/day. The southern and northern seasonal movement paths observed for yellowfin off Baja California are influenced by the seasonal movements of the 18°C SST isotherm. Cyclical movements to and from suitable spawning habitat (≥24°C SST) was observed only for mature fish. For the 12 fish that demonstrated site fidelity, the mean 95 and 50% utilization distributions were 258,730 km2 and 41,260 km2, respectively. Evaluations of the timed depth records resulted in discrimination of four distinct behaviors. When exhibiting type-1 diving behavior (78.1% of all days at liberty) the fish remained at depths less than 50 m at night and did not dive to depths greater than about 100 m during the day. Type-2 diving behavior (21.2% of all days at liberty) was characterized by ten or more dives in excess of 150 m during the day. Type-2 diving behavior is apparently a foraging strategy for fish targeting prey organisms of the deep-scattering layer during the day, following nighttime foraging within the mixed layer on the same prey. Yellowfin tuna exhibited occasional deep-diving behavior, and some dives exceeded 1,000 m, where ambient temperatures were less than 5°C. Surface-oriented behavior, defined as the time fish remained at depths less than 10 m for more than 10 min, were evaluated. The mean number and duration of surface-oriented events per day for all fish was 14.3 and 28.5 min, respectively. Habitat utilization of yellowfin, presented as monthly composite horizontal and vertical distributions, indicates confined geographical distributions, apparently resulting from an affinity to an area of high prey availability. The vertical distributions indicate greater daytime depths in relation to a seasonally deeper mixed layer and a greater proportion of daytime at shallower depths in relation to a seasonally shallower mixed layer.


Mixed Layer Movement Path Bluefin Tuna Yellowfin Tuna Diving Behavior 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported by the Tagging of Pacific Pelagics, a program of the Census of Marine Life. We are indebted to Captain T. Ekstrom and crew aboard the FV Royal Star for their invaluable assistance, and to all the passengers who participated enthusiastically in catching fish to be tagged and released. We thank Shimano American Corporation and Izorline International Corporation for product support of our tuna tagging efforts. We are grateful to vessel owners, captains, fishers, unloaders, and industry representatives for returning recovered ATs. We are thankful to the personnel of the IATTC Ensenada and Mazatlan field offices for assistance in recovering ATs. We also thank S. Teo, R. Matteson, and M. Castleton for processing the SST-adjusted latitude estimates and G. Strout. We appreciate the constructive comments on drafts of the manuscript provided by W. Bayliff, R. Allen and Three anonymous reviewers. The tagging experiments described in this study were conducted within the 370 km EEZ of Mexico and complied with current laws of that country.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kurt M. Schaefer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Daniel W. Fuller
    • 1
  • Barbara A. Block
    • 2
  1. 1.Inter-American Tropical Tuna CommissionLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.Tuna Research and Conservation Center, Hopkins Marine StationStanford UniversityPacific GroveUSA

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