Movement and vertical habitat use of yellowfin tuna Thunnus albacares in a vertical compressed habitat: the Galápagos Marine Reserve

Jonathan R. Green

Tropical pelagic predators are exploited by fisheries and their movements are influenced by factors including prey availability, temperature, and dissolved oxygen levels. As the biophysical parameters vary greatly within the range of circumtropical species, local studies are needed to define those species’ habitat preference and model possible behavioural responses under different climate change scenarios. Here, we tagged yellowfin tuna Thunnus albacares in the Galápagos Marine Reserve and tracked the horizontal and vertical movements of 8 individuals for 4–97 days. The tuna travelled a mean of 13.6 km d-1 horizontally and dispersed throughout the archipelago and in offshore waters inside the Galápagos Marine Reserve and in the surrounding Ecuadorian exclusive economic zone. Vertically, they travelled a mean of 2 km d-1, although high-resolution data from a recovered tag suggested that transmitted data underestimated their vertical movement by a factor of 5.5. The tracked yellowfin tuna spent most of their time near the surface, with an overall mean swimming depth of 24.3 ± 46.6 m, and stayed shallower at night (12.3 ± 4.9 m) than during the day (23.8 ± 20.9 m), but on occasion dived to cold, oxygen-poor waters below 200 m. Deep dives were commonly made during the day with a mean recovery period of 51 min between exposures to modelled limiting oxygen conditions <1.5 ml l-1, presumably to re-oxygenate. The depth and frequency of dives were likely limited by dissolved oxygen levels, as oxygen depleted conditions reach shallow depths in this region. The main habitat of tracked yellowfin tunas was in the shallow mixed layer which may leave them vulnerable to fishing. Vertical expansion of low-oxygen waters under future climate change scenarios may further compress their habitat, increasing their vulnerability to surface fishing gear.

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In 2022, the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) and the broader UNC & USFQ Galapagos Initiative will celebrate its 10th Anniversary. We are proud to announce the World Summit on Island Sustainability scheduled to be held on June 26–30, 2022 at the Galapagos Science Center and the Community Convention Center on San Cristobal Island.

The content of the World Summit will be distributed globally through social media and results documented through papers published in a book written as part of the Galapagos Book Series by Springer Nature and edited by Steve Walsh (UNC) & Carlos Mena (USFQ) as well as Jill Stewart (UNC) and Juan Pablo Muñoz (GSC/USC). The book will be inclusive and accessible by the broader island community including scientists, managers, residents, tourists, and government and non-government organizations.

While the most obvious goal of organizing the World Summit on Island Sustainability is to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the GSC and the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, other goals will be addressed through special opportunities created as part of our operational planning of the World Summit.

For instance, we seek to elevate and highlight the Galapagos in the island conservation discourse, seeking to interact with other island networks in more obvious and conspicuous ways to benefit the Galapagos Islands, the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, and the world. We will seize the opportunity to further develop the I2N2 – International Islands Network-of-Networks. Further, we wish to highlight and emphasize multiple visions of a sustainable future for the Galapagos Islands and we cannot do this alone. Therefore, engaging the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Tourism, the Government Council of Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park, and local Galapagos authorities, including government and non-government organizations and local citizen groups, is imperative.

The Galapagos Science Center on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

Borrowing from Hawaii’s and Guam’s Green Growth Program and the Global Island Partnership, we wish to examine existing global programs that emphasize island sustainability and their incorporation into life, policies, and circumstances in the Galapagos Islands. We will also seek to enhance our connections with the institutional members of our International Galapagos Science Consortium and expand the Consortium through the recruitment of other member institutions. We will also work to benefit islands and their local communities by working with citizen groups as well as important NGOs who seek to improve the natural conditions in the Galapagos and diminish the impact of the human dimension on the future of Galapagos’ ecosystems.

Lastly, we will use the World Summit to benefit UNC & USFQ and our constituencies through a strong and vibrant communication plan about the World Summit, creating corporate relationships as sponsors, identifying funding goals through donors, and benefiting our study abroad program for student engagement in the Galapagos Islands. We plan to develop and issue a Galapagos Sustainability Communique after the World Summit that includes the vision and insights of all its participants for a sustainable Galapagos with applicability to global island settings.

We are eager to hear your perspective and have you join us at the World Summit on Island Sustainability!