FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Connie Barclay
The National Marine Fisheries Service, an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, recently began a tagging program to track albacore tuna population migration throughout the Pacific Ocean.
NOAA Fisheries Southwest Fisheries Science Center partnered with the American Fishermen's Research Foundation, the Western Fishboat Owners' Association, and Japanese scientists for the project that includes placing archival tags on albacore tuna in waters off San Diego, Calif. The archival tags are sophisticated monitoring devices that can record geographical positions daily for up to seven years, as well as sea temperature and pressure, and internal body temperature for shorter periods of time. Japanese scientists are also implanting the same tags in the western Pacific.
The aim of the project is to collect information on the migratory habits of the albacore. Past conventional tagging projects have shown that albacore do make transpacific migrations. With the archival tags, scientists now have the capability to track migrations along the U.S. West Coast, and to assess whether some albacore stay in the eastern, mid, or western Pacific Ocean as local resident populations.
"This type of tagging research provides critical data to help scientists corroborate or refute currently held assumptions regarding the population's movements within a year and between years," NOAA Fisheries scientist John Childers said. "The new tagging program will serve as the baseline information in the population models that are used to assess the health of the stock of this valuable fishery."
This first-time project to place archival tags on albacore in the eastern Pacific began Oct. 24, when the WFOA fishing vessel Her Grace departed Avila Beach, Calif., with Childers aboard. He is in the process of implanting a total of 15 archival tags in the stomach cavities of individual fish. The American Fishermen's Foundation, who supplied the tags, is offering a $500 reward for the return of the tags if found in a tuna.
Fisheries scientists generally agree that the North Pacific albacore population is currently a relatively healthy' stock that has responded favorably to catch rates over the last decade or so. Recent assessments of the entire stock indicated that sustainable yields, on a global basis, likely range between 176.4 and 220.5 million pounds (80,000 and 100,000 metric tons), which is roughly the level of total catches observed on an annual basis during the latter part of the 1990s.
Albacore, which are caught in the Pacific Ocean by many nations, are a major product for the U.S. canning industry and an important source of protein for Americans. U.S. commercial fishers catch albacore as the fish migrate from the western Pacific Ocean off Japan. Most of the albacore catch is sent to canneries in American Samoa and Spain, where it is canned as white meat' tuna. U.S. recreational fishers also catch albacore off Oregon, Washington and California.
NOAA Fisheries is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation's living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat.
To learn more about the NOAA fisheries Southwest Fisheries Science Center, visit http://www.swfsc.nmfs.noaa.gov.