Decline in condition of northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) in the Gulf of Maine


Golet, Walter J., Andrew B. Cooper, Robert Campbell, and Molly Lutcavage
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The northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) is a highly mobile apex predator in the Gulf of Maine. Despite current stock assessments that indicate historically high abundance of its main prey, Atlantic her-ring (Clupea harengus), commercial fishermen have observed declines in the somatic condition of northern bluefin tuna during the last decade. We examined this claim by reviewing detailed logbooks of northern bluefin tuna condition from a local fishermen’s co-operative and applying multinomial regression, a robust tool for exploring how a categorical variable may be related to other variables of interest. The data set contained >3082 observations of condition (fat and oil content and fish shape) from fish landed between 1991 and 2004. Energy from stored lipids is used for migration and reproduction; therefore a reduction in energy acquisition on bluefin tuna feeding grounds could diminish allocations to growth and gamete production and have detrimental consequences for rebuilding the western Atlantic population. A decline in northern bluefin tuna somatic condition could indicate substantial changes in the bottom-up transfer of energy in the Gulf of Maine, shifts in their reproductive or migratory patterns, impacts of fishing pressure, or synergistic effects from multiple causes.