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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Risk and Reward in Foraging Migrations of North Pacific Albacore Determined From Estimates of Energy Intake and Movement Costs

Muhling, Barbara A.; Snyder, Stephanie; Hazen, Elliott L.; Whitlock, Rebecca E.; Dewar, Heidi; Park, Jong-Yeon; Stock, Charles A.; Block, Barbara A.


North Pacific albacore (Thunnus alalunga) is a commercially important tuna species known to undertake extensive migratory movements between nearshore waters of the California Current and offshore environments in the central Pacific. However, these migration behaviors are highly variable, with some individuals traveling thousands of kilometers within a season, and others largely resident in the southern California Current throughout the year. In this study, we use data from 33 archival-tagged albacore (released between 2003 and 2011) to examine the movements, physiology and ecology of tuna following different migratory pathways. We used direct measurements of body temperature and ambient water temperature from internal archival tags to estimate energy intake via the Heat Increment of Feeding (HIF), the increased internal heat production associated with digestion of a meal. Our results indicate that HIF was variable in space and time, but it was highest for individuals foraging in the offshore North Pacific Transition Zone and southern California Current during spring and summer, and lowest in the Transition Zone in fall. None of the migratory strategies examined appeared to confer consistently higher energetic benefits than the others. Fish remaining resident in the southern California Current year-round incurred lower migration costs, and could access favorable foraging conditions off Baja California in spring and summer. In contrast, fish which undertook longer migrations had much higher energetic costs during periods of faster transit times, but were able to reach highly productive foraging areas in the central and western Pacific. HIF was generally higher in larger fish, and when ambient temperatures were cooler, but was not strongly correlated with other environmental covariates. Our analyses offer new avenues for studying the physiology of wild tuna populations, and can complement diet and isotopic studies to further understanding of fish ecology.


North Pacific albacore; foraging ecology; highly migratory species; tuna migration; heat increment of feeding

Published in

Frontiers in marine science
2022, volume: 9, article number: 730428

Authors' information

Muhling, Barbara A.
University of California Santa Cruz
Muhling, Barbara A.
National Oceanic Atmospheric Admin (NOAA) - USA
Snyder, Stephanie
Thomas More Univ
Hazen, Elliott L.
National Oceanic Atmospheric Admin (NOAA) - USA
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Resources
Dewar, Heidi
National Oceanic Atmospheric Admin (NOAA) - USA
Park, Jong-Yeon
Jeonbuk National University
Stock, Charles A.
National Oceanic Atmospheric Admin (NOAA) - USA
Block, Barbara A.
Stanford University

UKÄ Subject classification

Fish and Aquacultural Science

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