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Tracking Tagged Yellowfin Tuna In Coral Triangle A Success

Tracking Tagged Yellowfin Tuna In Coral Triangle A Success Marine-biology experts on Sunday reported that they were successful in tracking the movements of several yellowfin tuna caught and tagged in the Philippines.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines (WWF-Philippines), data from pop-up satellite tags attached to four adult yellowfin tuna, a commercially viable fish species, showed movements around the waters of the so-called Coral Triangle, a region considered as the center of marine biodiversity in the world.

The Philippines sits at the apex of this region.

Jose Ingles, tuna strategy leader of the WWF Coral Triangle Program, said the movements of the tunas Amihan, Badjao, Hagibis and Buhawi can now be followed via a species tracking map that shows, in color-coded coordinates, how far the fish have swam since being tagged off the western seaboard of Mindoro Occidental province.

The data gathered so far revealed that tuna movements cover an impressive amount of nautical miles a day, traveling back and forth in a general north-south direction from where they were caught and released after tagging.

“While still preliminary, the results signify that to properly manage this yellowfin tuna stock, we need to consider similar or complimentary conservation measures along the geographic area of its movements,” Ingles said.

WWF, in collaboration with the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), is implementing a tuna-tagging project in Philippine waters to gather more data on the movements of yellowfin tuna.

“Through this [project], we hope to identify key spawning, feeding and nursery grounds of this much sought-after species and make a case for governments to protect these sites,” Ingles said.

The Coral Triangle, which encompasses the seas of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste, is a known tuna nursery and migratory path, producing about 30 percent of the total global tuna catch.

The tuna industry is an economic driver in this part of the world, feeding millions of people and providing jobs to thousands of fishermen and their families who depend on the ocean’s resources.

The increasing global demand for tuna, however, has driven the overfishing and illegal catching of the species, causing an alarming decline in stocks.

Yellowfin tuna are now classified as overexploited but some environmental groups, but 2011 WCPFC data showed that although fishing pressure on yellowfin is high, it was not overexploited, and not overfished in the Western Pacific ocean . However some scientist have been expressing their concerns of chances of the yellowfin stock approaching an overfished state if fishing activity keeps increasing.

“By tagging tuna, we hope to gather critical information that can help protect the species in specific sites during its most vulnerable life stages. Data collected will help inform management plans for a more sustainable tuna industry in this part of the world,” Ingles said.

Sixteen pop-up satellite tags will be deployed on large adult yellowfin tunas (weighing more than 70 kilograms) during the course of the project.

Pop-up satellite tags, which are attached at the back of the tuna, collect vital data such as temperature, depth and light intensity, and are programmed to automatically detach from the fish after three to six months when it floats to the surface and sends out information via satellite transmission and into a server.