Feeding ecology and interannual variations in diet of southern bluefin tuna, Thunnus maccoyii, in relation to coastal and oceanic waters off eastern Tasmania, Australia

  • Jock W. Young
  • Timothy D. Lamb
  • Duyet Le
  • Russell W. Bradford
  • A. Wade Whitelaw


The diets of 1219 southern bluefin tuna, Thunnus maccoyii, from inshore (shelf) and offshore (oceanic) waters off eastern Tasmania were examined between 1992 and 1994. Immature fish (< 155 cm fork length) made up 88% of those examined. In all, 92 prey taxa were identified. Inshore, the main prey were fish (Trachurus declivis and Emmelichthys nitidus) and juvenile squid (Nototodarus gouldi). Offshore, the diversity was greater, reflecting the diversity of micronekton in these waters. Interestingly, macrozooplankton prey (e.g. Phronima sedentaria) were prevalent in tuna > 150 cm. The offshore tuna, when in subantarctic waters, ate relatively more squid than when in the East Australia Current. In the latter, fish and crustacea were more important, although there were variations between years. No relationship was found between either prey type or size with size of tuna. Feeding was significantly higher in the morning than at other times of the day. The mean weight of prey was significantly higher in inshore-caught tuna than in those caught offshore. We estimated that the mean daily ration of southern bluefin tuna off eastern Tasmania was 0.97% of wet body weight day−1. However, the daily ration of inshore-caught tuna was ∼ 3 times higher (2.7%) than for tuna caught offshore (0.8%) indicating that feeding conditions on the shelf were better than those offshore. Our results indicate that the inshore waters of eastern Tasmania are an important feeding area for, at least, immature southern bluefin tuna.

fronts shelf oceanography scombrid fish 

References cited

  1. Bennetti, D.D., R.W. Brill & S.A. Kraul, Jr. 1995. The standard metabolic rate of dolphin fish. J. Fish Biol. 46: 987–996.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bigg, M.A. & M.A. Perez. 1985. Modified Volume: a frequency-volume method to assess marine mammal food habits. pp 277–283. In: J.R. Beddington, R.J.H. Beverton & D.M. Lavigne (ed.) Marine Mammals and Fisheries, George Allen and Unwin, London.Google Scholar
  3. Brandt, S.B. 1981. Effects of a warm-core eddy on fish distributions in the Tasman Sea off east Australia. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 6: 19–33.Google Scholar
  4. Boisclair, D. & F. Marchand. 1993. The guts to estimate daily ration. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 50: 1969–1975.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Caton, A., P. Ward & C. Colgan. 1995. The Australian 1989–90 to 1994–5 southern bluefin tuna seasons. Council for the conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna Scientific Meeting. 10–19 July 1995.Google Scholar
  6. Clarke, A., L.J. Holmes & D.J. Gore. 1992. Proximate and elemental composition of gelatinous zooplankton from the Southern Ocean. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 155: 55–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dickson, K.A. 1995. Unique adaptations of the metabolic biochemistry of tunas and billfishes for life in the pelagic environment. Env. Biol. Fish. 42: 65–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Durbin, E.G., A.G. Durbin, R.W. Langton & R.E. Bowman. 1983. Stomach contents of silver hake, Merluccius bilinearis, and Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua, and estimation of their daily rations. U.S. Fish. Bull. 81: 437–454.Google Scholar
  9. Elliot, J.M. & L. Persson. 1978. The estimation of daily rates of food consumption for fish. J. Anim. Ecol. 47: 977–991.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Griffiths, F.B. & V.A. Wadley. 1986. Synoptic comparison of fishes and crustaceans from a warm-core eddy, the East Australian Current, the Coral Sea and the Tasman Sea. Deep-Sea Res. 33: 1907–1922.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jordan, A., G. Pullen, J. Marshall & H. Williams. 1995. Temporal and spatial patterns of spawning in jack mackerel, Trachurus declivis (Pisces: Carangidae), during 1988–91 in eastern Tasmanian waters. J. Mar. Freshwat. Res. 46: 831–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Harris, G.P., F.B. Griffiths, L.A. Clementson, V. Lyne & H. Van der Doe. 1991. Seasonal and interannual variability in physical processes, nutrient cycling and the structure of the food chain in Tasmanian shelf waters. J. Plankton Res. 13: 109–113Google Scholar
  13. Harris, G., C. Nilsson, L. Clementson & D. Thomas. 1987. The water masses of the east coast of Tasmania: seasonal and interannual variability and the influence on phytoplankton biomass and productivity. Aust. J. Mar. Freshw. Res. 38: 569–590CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hespenheide, H.A. 1975. Prey characteristics and predator niche width. pp. 158–180. In: Cody, M.L., & J.M. Diamond (ed.). Ecology and Evolution of Communities, Belknap Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  15. Hynd, J.S. 1968. Sea surface temperature maps as an aid to tuna fishing. Aust. Fish. Newsl. 27: 23–29.Google Scholar
  16. Hynd, J.S. 1969. Isotherm maps for tuna fishermen. Aust. Fish. 28: 13–22Google Scholar
  17. Kashkina, A.A. 1986. Feeding of fishes on salps (Tunicata, Thaliacea). J. Ichthyol. 26(A): 57–64.Google Scholar
  18. Magnuson, J.J. 1969. Digestion and food consumption by skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis). Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 98: 379–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Maldeniya, R. 1996. Food consumption of yellowfin tuna, Thunnus albacares, in Sri Lankan waters. Env. Biol. Fish. 47: 101–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Olson, R.J. & C.H. Boggs. 1986. Apex predation by yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares): independent estimates from gastric evacuation and stomach contents, bioenergetics and cesium concentrations. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 43: 1760–1775.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ortega-Garìa, S., F. Galván-Mangaña & J. Arvizu-Martínez. 1992. Activity of the mexican purse seine fleet and the feeding habits of yellowfin tuna. Ciencias Marinas 18: 139–149.Google Scholar
  22. Pauly, D., A.Ch. de Vildoso, J. Mejia, M. Samamé & M.L. Palomares. 1987. Population dynamics and estimated anchoveta consumption of bonito (Sarda chiliensis) off Peru, 1953 to 1982. pp. 248–267. In: D. Pauly & I. Tsukayama (ed.), The Peruvian Anchoveta and its Upwelling Ecosystem, Three Decades of Change, ICLARM Studies and Reviews 15, Manila.Google Scholar
  23. Persson, L. 1986. Patterns of food evacuation in fishes: a critical review. Env. Biol. Fish. 16: 51–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Pinkas, L., M.S. Oliphant & I.L.K. Iverson. 1971. Food habits of albacore, bluefin tuna, and bonito in California waters. U.S. Fish Bull. 152. 105 pp.Google Scholar
  25. Robins, J. P. 1952. Further observations on the distribution of striped tuna, Katsuwonus pelamis L., in eastern Australian waters, and its relation to surface to temperature. Aust. J. Mar. Freshw. Res. 3: 101–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Robins, J.P. 1963. Synopsis of the biological data on bluefin tuna Thunnus thynnus maccoyii (Castelnau) 1872. FAO Fish. Rep. 6: 562–587.Google Scholar
  27. Serventy, D.L. 1956. The southern bluefin tuna, Thunnus thynnus maccoyii (Castelnau), in Australian waters. Aust. J. Mar. Freshw. Res. 7: 1–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Shingu, C. 1981. Ecology and stock of southern bluefin tuna. CSI-RO Div. Fish. Oceanogr. Rep. No. 131. 79 pp. (translated by Hintze, M.A.).Google Scholar
  29. Talbot, F.H. & M.J. Penrith. 1963. Synopsis of the biological data on species of the genus Thunnus (sensu lato) (South Africa). FAO Fish. Rep. 6: 608–649.Google Scholar
  30. Tranter, D. J., G. S. Leech & D. Airey. 1983. Edge enrichment in an ocean eddy. Aust. J. Mar. Freshw. Res. 34: 665–680.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Williams, H. & G. Pullen. 1993. Schooling behaviour of jack mackerel, Trachurus declivis (Jenyns), observed in the Tasmanian purse seine fishery. Aust. J. Mar. Freshw. Res. 44: 577–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Webb, B.F. 1972. Report on the investigation of the ‘Lloret Lopez II’ 8 January to 2 April 1970, Sect. 6: Tuna catch analysis and seawater temperatures. Fish. tech. Rep. N.Z. Min. Ag. Fish. 108. 105 pp.Google Scholar
  33. Young, J.W. & T.L.O. Davis. 1992. Feeding ecology and interannual variations in diet of larval jack mackerel, Trachurus declivis (pisces: Carangidae), from coastal waters off eastern Tasmania. Mar. Biol. 113: 11–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Young, J.W., A. R. Jordan, C.M. Bobbi, R.E. Johannes, K. Haskard & G. Pullen. 1993. Seasonal and interannual variability in krill (Nyctiphanes australis) stocks and their relationship to the jack mackerel (Trachurus declivis) fishery off eastern Tasmania, Australia. Mar. Biol. 116: 9–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Young, J.W., R.W. Bradford, T.D. Lamb & V.D. Lyne. 1996a. Biomass of zooplankton and micronekton in the southern bluefin tuna fishing grounds off eastern Tasmania, Australia. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 138: 1–14.Google Scholar
  36. Young, J.W., T.D. Lamb & R.W. Bradford. 1996b. Distribution and community structure of midwater fishes in relation to the subtropical convergence off eastern Tasmania, Australia. Mar. Biol. 126: 571–584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Young, J.W. & V.D. Lyne. 1993. Ocean conditions affect Tasmanian tuna aggregations. Aust. Fish. 52: 24–26.Google Scholar
  38. Zar, J. H. 1984. Biostatistical analysis. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs. 718 pp.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jock W. Young
    • 1
  • Timothy D. Lamb
    • 1
  • Duyet Le
    • 1
  • Russell W. Bradford
    • 1
  • A. Wade Whitelaw
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Marine ResearchCSIROTasmaniaAustralia

Personalised recommendations