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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Informing Management of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Using Telemetry Data

Whitlock, Rebecca; Schallert, Robert J.; Stokesbury, Michael J. W.; Castleton, Michael; Block, Barbara A.


Sustainable management of exploited marine fish and wildlife populations requires knowledge about their productivity. Survival from natural causes of mortality is a key component of population productivity, but is notoriously difficult to estimate. We evaluate the potential for acoustic telemetry as a long-term monitoring tool to estimate rates of natural mortality. We present a Bayesian multistate mark-recapture model for telemetry data collected over a decade from 188 Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) and apply it to estimate the rate of natural mortality using only acoustic tag detections for all animals, or using acoustic tag detections for 96 single-tagged tuna plus acoustic tag detections combined with estimated positions from pop-up satellite archival tags for 92 double-tagged animals. We support the model for bluefin tuna with a simulation study to quantify bias in estimates of population dynamics parameters and investigate the effect of auxiliary information from satellite tagging on mortality rate estimates for different acoustic tag detection probability scenarios.We obtained posterior estimates of the instantaneous annual natural mortality (survival) rate across a decade of tagging for Atlantic bluefin tuna of 0.17 yr(-1) (0.84 yr(-1)) both using only acoustic tagging data, and using a combination of acoustic and satellite tagging data. Use of a prior implying a higher rate of fishing mortality yielded an instantaneous annual natural mortality (survival) estimate of 0.10 yr(-1) (0.90 yr(-1)), with combined acoustic and satellite tag data. Results from the simulation study indicate that the use of satellite tags can improve the precision and accuracy of estimates of detection probabilities, area-specific movement probabilities and mortality rates, where the extent of the improvement depends on true underlying acoustic tag detection probabilities. Our work demonstrates that long-term acoustic tagging data sets have strong potential for monitoring of highly migratory marine fish and wildlife populations, providing information on a number of key parameters, including survival and movement rates. However, improved information on tag reporting rates or fishing mortality is needed to better separate natural and fisheries mortality for Atlantic bluefin tuna.


sustainable management; conservation; acoustic telemetry; mark-recapture; multistate models; Atlantic bluefin tuna; population monitoring

Published in

Frontiers in marine science
2022, Volume: 9, article number: 771547

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG14 Life below water

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Fish and Aquacultural Science
    Fish and Wildlife Management
    Signal Processing

    Publication identifier


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