Block takes lessons from a tuna’s perspective

by Sheril Kirshenbaum

Block, B. A., et al. (2003). “Revealing pelagic habitat use: the tagging of Pacific Pelagics program.” Oceanologica Acta 25 255-266

Barbara Block is based at Stanford University and established the Tuna Research and Conservation Center.  Tuna and billfish are highly exploited in international fisheries and effective management  of existing biodiversity requires an understanding of their biology and population structure.  Block and colleagues catch and tag these pelagic animals to examine short and long-term movement patterns, stock structure and behavior.

The Tagging of Pacific Pelagics (TOPP) research project explores the Pacific, using a carefully selected group of animals from its ecosystems to gather data about their world.  TOPP is a pilot program of the Census of Marine Life (COML), an international endeavor to determine what lives, has lived and will live in the world’s oceans.  TOPP is jointly run by Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Lab, the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Laboratory, NOAA’s Pacific Fisheries Ecosystems Lab, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium including team members from several countries.  Scientists tag 21 different species  of marine animals in the Eastern Pacific to understand how they live.

By taking a multispecies approach, these autonomous ocean ‘samplers’ provide unprecedented coverage of the water column structure of the North Pacific.  The approach can be used to support the establishment of managed areas – called a “marine conservation corridors” – between the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador), Coco Islands (Costa Rica), Coiba Island  (Panama), and several other islands of the  region.  TOPP can be applied around the world and incorporated in management planning to include human resource extraction which is fundamental in EBM


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