Short-term behavioural responses of Atlantic bluefin tuna to catch-and-release fishing

Haley R. Dolton*, Andrew L. Jackson, Alan Drumm, Lucy Harding, Niall Ó Maoiléidigh, Hugo Maxwell, Ross O'Neill, Jonathan D.R. Houghton, Nicholas L. Payne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Catch-and-release (C&R) angling is often touted as a sustainable form of ecotourism, yet the fine-scale behaviour and physiological responses of released fish is often unknown, especially for hard-to-study large pelagic species like Atlantic bluefin tuna (ABFT; Thunnus thunnus). Multi-channel sensors were deployed and recovered from 10 ABFTs in a simulated recreational C&R event off the west coast of Ireland. Data were recorded from 6 to 25 hours, with one ABFT (tuna X) potentially suffering mortality minutes after release. Almost all ABFTs (n = 9, including tuna X) immediately and rapidly (vertical speeds of ∼2.0 m s-1) made powered descents and used 50-60% of the available water column within 20 seconds, before commencing near-horizontal swimming ∼60 seconds post-release. Dominant tailbeat frequency was ∼50% higher in the initial hours post-release and appeared to stabilize at 0.8-1.0 Hz some 5-10 hours post-release. Results also suggest different short-term behavioural responses to noteworthy variations in capture and handling procedures (injury and reduced air exposure events). Our results highlight both the immediate and longer-term effects of C&R on ABFTs and that small variations in C&R protocols can influence physiological and behavioural responses of species like the commercially valuable and historically over-exploited ABFT.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbercoac060
JournalConservation Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 02 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding Research conducted by H.R.D in this publication was funded by the Irish Research Council under award number (GOIPG/2019/4197). A.L.J. was funded by the Irish Research Council grant (IRCLA/2017/186). L.H. and N.L.P. were supported by Science Foundation Ireland (18/SIRG/5549) and Marine Institute (SERV-18-FEAS-079, SERV-19-FEAS071 & SERV-20-FEAS-074b). A.D., N.O.M., H.M. and R.O.N. were funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund-Sustainable Fisheries Scheme A3: Innovation. (19.SF.A.03). Fieldwork was conducted under license from the Health Products Regulatory Authority of Ireland (#AE19136/P127).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press and the Society for Experimental Biology.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Ecological Modelling
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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