Diving behavior of immature, feeding Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus orientalis) in relation to season and area: the East China Sea and the Kuroshio–Oyashio transition region


*e-mail: takashik@ori.u-tokyo.ac.jp


Twenty-four archival tags were recovered from Pacific bluefin tuna previously released off Tsushima Island in the East China Sea. By analysis of the time-series data of the pressure and the ambient and internal temperature from the 24 tags, we examined the relationship between the tuna's pattern of diving and the thermocline depth. In the East China Sea, diving and feeding events occurred throughout almost the entire day in both winter and summer, suggesting that the purpose of diving is for feeding. In summer, the feeding frequency was greater than that in winter, which corresponds to the fact that growth is more rapid in summer than in winter. During summer in the Kuroshio–Oyashio transition region, on the other hand, feeding events were much more frequent than those in the East China Sea, in spite of a lower diving frequency. The mean horizontal distance traveled was also significantly higher and it seems that in this area they may move horizontally to feed on prey accumulated at the surface. We conclude that, in addition to the ambient temperature structure, the vertical and horizontal distribution of prey species plays an important role in the feeding behavior of Pacific bluefin tuna. One bluefin tuna migrated to the Oyashio frontal area, where both the horizontal and the vertical thermal gradients are much steeper. The fish spent most of the time on the warmer side of the front and often traveled horizontally to the colder side during the day, perhaps to feed. This implies that there is a thermal barrier effect, in this case from the Oyashio front, on their behavior. The frequency of feeding events was low, although all the monitored fish dived every dawn and dusk, irrespective of the seasons or location. It is possible that these twice-daily diving patterns occurred in response to the change in ambient light at sunrise and sunset.