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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

First tagging data on large Atlantic bluefin tuna behaviour in newly retaken Nordic areas suggests repeated behaviour and skipped spawning

Aarestrup, Kim; Baktoft, Henrik; Birnie-Gauvin, Kim; Sundelöf, Andreas; Cardinale, Massimiliano; Quilez-Badia, Gemma; Onandia, Iñigo; Casini, Michele; Nielsen, Einar Eg; Koed, Anders; Alemany, Francisco; MacKenzie, Brian R.


Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus; ABFT) is one of the most iconic fish species in the world. Recently, after being very rare for more than half a century, large bluefin tunas have returned to Nordic waters in late summer and autumn, marking the return of the largest predatory fish in Nordic waters. By tagging 18 bluefin tunas with electronic tags (pop-up satellite archival tags), we show that bluefin tuna observed in Nordic waters undertake different migration routes, with individuals migrating into the western Atlantic Ocean, while others stay exclusively in the eastern Atlantic and enter the Mediterranean Sea to spawn. We additionally present evidence of possible skipped spawning inferred from behavioural analyses. In Nordic waters, ABFT are primarily using the upper water column, likely reflecting feeding activity. The results support the hypothesis that ABFT migrating to Nordic waters return to the same general feeding area within the region on an annual basis. These observations may have important implications for management because (1) tunas that come into Nordic waters might represent only a few year classes (as evidenced by a narrow size range), and thus may be particularly vulnerable to area-specific exploitation, and (2) challenge the assumption of consecutive spawning in adult Atlantic bluefin tuna, as used in current stock assessment models. Without careful management and limited exploitation of this part of the ABFT population, the species’ return to Nordic waters could be short-lived.

Published in

Scientific Reports
2022, Volume: 12, article number: 11772