Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures


Faunal Composition and Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Tuna (Family: Scombridae) Early Life Stages in the Oceanic Gulf of Mexico

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Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference, New Orleans, LA, February 6-9, 2017

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Fishes within the family Scombridae (i.e., tunas, mackerels and bonitos) are of high economic and ecological value in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM), as they are heavily targeted by commercial and recreational fisheries. In coastal and open-ocean environments, adult tunas are top predators, while larval and juvenile tunas serve as prey for numerous species. Much is known about the distribution and abundance of adult tunas, but high taxonomic uncertainty and limited knowledge regarding the distributional patterns of larval and juvenile tunas have led to an “operational taxonomic unit” gap in our understanding of tuna ecology. This analysis examines the spatiotemporal dynamics of larval and juvenile scombrids collected across a wide swath of the northern GoM from April to September, 2011, as part of the NOAA-supported Offshore Nekton Sampling and Analysis Program. The distribution and relative abundance of several key tuna species (Thunnus thynnus, T. atlanticus, Auxis thazard and Euthynnus alletteratus) collected from the surface to 1500 m depth are characterized across the oceanic GoM (Louisiana to Florida) with respect to depth, time of year, and in relation to mesoscale oceanographic features. Integrating aspects of scombrid ecology in neritic and oceanic environments will improve management and conservation efforts for this highly important taxon.


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