HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

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Defense Date


Document Type

Thesis - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

David W. Kerstetter

Second Advisor

Amy Hirons

Third Advisor

Shannon Cass-Calay


The growth rate of a fish is a fundamental function used in stock assessments to estimate the population size and the fishery pressure affecting the species. There has been recent debate within the stock assessment community regarding which type of growth model best represents the true growth rate of yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), in the Atlantic Ocean; specifically, should assessments use a traditional von Bertalanffy growth curve or a so-called “two-stanza” growth curve, which combines one growth rate for smaller individual tuna and another for larger sizes.

Using a simulated population created with the software R, both growth models were compared under different scenarios. The first part of this thesis examines the effect of different fisheries and their associated gear selectivity. Purse seine, baitboat and pelagic longline fisheries, which target yellowfin tuna in the Atlantic Ocean, were incorporated into the analysis.

The second part looks at different sources of variability that occur either in nature (observation error) or in the process of analysis (process error). These include different growth variation, looking only at the fast growing young fish and using a set birth date versus a spawning period. These scenarios were used to determine if the sample, derived from a fishery-dependent sample, reflects the true population.

Three populations of yellowfin tuna were created: an un-fished population, a fished population from stock assessment data, and a fished population from simulation software called ‘Population Simulator’. These populations were all analyzed for the different scenarios as well as the different fisheries.

The final part of this thesis looks at three similar tuna species; skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis), bigeye (Thunnus obesus ) and albacore (Thunnus alalunga). The same scenarios and gear selectivities were applied to these tuna species.

The results of this study showed that the two-stanza growth curve was not a better fit for yellowfin tuna population in the Atlantic Ocean than the traditional von Bertalanffy growth curve. There were several scenarios that favored the two-stanza growth curve, but either it was a sample population not representative of the Atlantic Ocean population, or the two-stanza had no initial growth rate, making it the same as a traditional growth curve. Based on these results, it was evident that the traditional von Bertalanffy growth curve was the more accurate growth curve to use for yellowfin tuna in the Atlantic Ocean and it is recommended that this growth curve be used in the stock assessments going forward.

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