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Discrimination of eastward trans-Pacific migration of the Pacific bluefin tuna Thunnus orientalis through otolith δ13C and δ18O analyses

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The Pacific bluefin tuna Thunnus orientalis is a highly migratory species, some tuna exhibiting a trans-Pacific migration between the Western Pacific Ocean (WPO) to the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) at the juvenile stage. To detect a signature for the eastward trans-Pacific migration, we analyzed otolith stable isotope ratios of carbon (δ13Coto) and oxygen (δ18Ooto) along the growth trajectory for 20 migrants (age 3–5 years) from the EPO and 10 residents (age 2–3 years) from the WPO. The δ18Ooto values for migrants recorded during the eastward trans-Pacific migration were higher than those for residents during the same period. The higher δ18Ooto values for migrants reflect the low water temperatures encountered during their migration. The δ13Coto values were higher in the migrants than in the residents, suggesting that the higher values of carbon isotope ratios of both dissolved inorganic carbon and the diet in the EPO are recorded in the δ13Coto profiles. Our study demonstrates that otolith isotope analyses can successfully detect trans-Pacific migration of the Pacific bluefin tuna.

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We thank Y. Tanaka, H. Tanaka, Y. Hiraoka, H. Ashida, S. Ohshimo, K. Sato, T. Sato, E. Sawai, Y. Mochizuki, K. Nagasawa, K. Koizumi and S. Konagaya of the National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries for valuable advice and support, and the staff of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology for the stable isotope analysis. We are also grateful to the staff of Japan NUS Co., Ltd. for assistance.


This study was funded by a grant from the Fisheries Agency of Japan.

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Correspondence to Masanori Kawazu.

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All Pacific bluefin tuna specimens were caught and handled by commercial fisheries (long line and purse seine fishing) in Japan and in Mexico, and they were not killed for this study. The catch of this species is controlled by the Japanese Government based on the assessment of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Japanese waters and by the Mexican Government based on the assessment of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC 2014–2017) in American-Mexican waters.

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Kawazu, M., Tawa, A., Ishihara, T. et al. Discrimination of eastward trans-Pacific migration of the Pacific bluefin tuna Thunnus orientalis through otolith δ13C and δ18O analyses. Mar Biol 167, 110 (2020).

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