Monitoring the Eastern Tropical Pacific Tuna Fishery from Space
The Eastern Pacific tuna fishery, which is one of the world’s major fisheries, covers thousands of square kilometers. The vessels of this fishery are registered in more than 30 nations and largely target bigeye (Thunnus obesus), skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis), and yellowfin (T. albacores) tuna. In both the Pelagic Habitat Analysis Module project, which was sponsored by NASA, and the Fishscape project, which was sponsored by NSF, we have attempted to define the habitat of the three species by matching a 50 year time series on fish catch and effort with oceanographic information obtained from satellite imagery and from a global circulation model. The fishery time series, which was provided by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, provided spatial maps of catch and effort at monthly time steps; the satellite imagery of the region consisted of sea surface temperature, chlorophyll, and height from GHRSST, SEAWiFS, and AVISO products, and the modeled flow field at selected depths was output from ECCO-92 simulations from 1992 to present. All information was integrated and analyzed within the EASy marine geographic information system. This GIS will also provides a home for the Fishscape spatial simulation model of the coupled dynamics of the ocean, fish, fleets, and markets. In the future this model will be applied to an assessment of the potential ecological and economic impacts of climate change, technological advances in fleet operations, and increases in fuel costs.
We have determined by application of EOF analysis that the ECCO-2 simulation of sea surface height fits well with that of AVISO imagery; thus, if driven properly by predictions of future air-sea exchange, the model should provide good estimates of circulation patterns. We have also found that strong El Nino events lead to strong recruitment of all three species and strong La Nina events lead to weak recruitment. Finally, we have found that the general spatial distribution of the Eastern Pacific fishing grounds matches well with the spatial distribution of the hypoxic waters at a depth of 150 meters and the surface concentration of chlorophyll a, and monthly variations in the spatial distribution of the catch and effort are closely tied to sea surface temperature. We will conclude by discussing the reasons for these relationships and speculation on how these relations will help guide assessments of the impact of global warming on the fishery.