Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

November 08, 2005 09:27 ET

DFO: New Science Funding will Improve Knowledge of Bluefin Tuna and Other Highly Migratory Species in the Atlantic

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 8, 2005) - Geoff Regan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, today announced that two of the department's scientific research facilities, St. Andrew's Biological Station and the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, will receive $203,000 this year to improve the scientific understanding of highly migratory species in the Atlantic Ocean.

"This funding will help us fill some of the gaps in scientific knowledge of high seas fish stocks and oceans ecosystems," said Minister Regan. "It will also allow Canada to join the global community in building a sound scientific base on which to support the reform of regional fisheries management regimes."

Scientists at the St. Andrew's Biological Station will develop a new way to validate the age of bluefin tuna to better assess stock abundance. They will also participate with the Nova Scotia Swordfish Harpoon Association in the first Canadian high-tech tagging study of swordfish to determine their migration patterns. Funding will also be used by scientists at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography to study the migration patterns of porbeagle and blue sharks.

The Government of Canada announced funding of $20 million over three years for science, advocacy, policy and legal initiatives in support of Canada's strategy to support international governance of high seas in April 2005. More than half of this funding ($11 million) was reserved for scientific research to increase knowledge of high seas marine ecosystems, and to enable sound management decisions concerning resources within these ecosystems. This research includes initiatives on highly migratory fish stocks, such as tuna and swordfish, as well as sharks in the Atlantic Ocean.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) sets the Canadian quota for tuna and swordfish. Canada is responsible for adhering to its quota and reporting its landings to ICCAT each year at the organization's annual meeting. This year's meeting will take place in Seville, Spain from November 14-20, 2005. Among its objectives for the meeting, Canada will be seeking a commitment for organizational report to continue to improve the way the world manages high seas fish stocks.

To learn more about Canada's strategy to curb overfishing and strengthen international fisheries governance, visit

New Scientific Research Initiatives on Highly Migratory
Fish Stocks in the Atlantic

Bluefin Tuna Stock Origin in the Central North Atlantic

Bluefin tuna are managed by ICCAT as two separate populations in the North Atlantic - a western stock and an eastern stock. One of the most significant international management issues for these populations is identifying the numbers of each stock and determining how they mix in the Central North Atlantic. In collaboration with industry, Canada investigated the potential to sample those distant waters during commercial fishing ventures in the first year of funding for this project. Several possible sampling opportunities have been identified, and data collection of samples is set to proceed in 2006 and 2007. This project links to recent initiatives by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) to improve the scientific basis of the understanding of mixing and population dynamics for bluefin tuna.

Bluefin Tuna Age Validation Project

This project involves developing a new way to validate the ages of bluefin tuna. Age-structured studies of growth and mortality provide critical information for bluefin tuna stock assessments. By having an accurate measure of the age of bluefin tuna, related to size, we can understand growth rate, better assess the abundance of adult stocks, and predict future numbers. While similar studies were conducted in the past, it is unclear whether their results hold true today. Scientists also want a better way of measuring age. This study is consistent with the objectives of the ICCAT Bluefin Year Program. Results will be presented at a Bluefin Year Program workshop early in 2006.

Stock Structure and Migration Patterns of Swordfish

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) scientists are working with the Nova Scotia Swordfish Harpoon Association in the first Canadian high-tech tagging study of swordfish, to determine the migration patterns of these species in the Atlantic Ocean. The pop-up satellite tags are basically tiny waterproof computers that are programmed to record the depth of swimming, temperature of the water, and location of the fish. The tags are designed to endure dives to more than 3,000 feet deep. Information will be relayed to an ARGOS satellite when the tag "pops up" to the surface in the summer of 2006. The information will then be downloaded to a computer for scientists to analyze the data and ultimately determine migration patterns. A total of 11 tags have been placed on female swordfish this season.

Porbeagle Shark Migration Patterns and Location of Pupping Grounds

Although porbeagle sharks are presently fished in both Canadian and international waters, these marine mammals are now being considered for listing as an endangered species in Canada. Highly migratory species, porbeagle sharks spend considerable time within Canadian waters before wintering in unknown waters, which may or may not be within our 200-nautical-mile zone. The location of the porbeagle pupping ground is also completely unknown. This project is designed to identify the migratory pathways and pupping grounds of porbeagle sharks to improve the international management of this species, and to possibly designate the pupping areas as marine protected areas

Blue Shark Migration Patterns and Discard Mortality

Blue sharks are an important, but poorly understood component of the large pelagic fish community off the shores of eastern Canada. These highly migratory species may spend substantial periods of time in Canadian waters, before moving to the high seas. Although incidentally caught in large numbers as a bycatch of other directed fisheries, , the survival rate of discarded fish is unknown. It is important to quantify survival if international efforts for stock assessment are to succeed. This project will involve placing archival satellite pop-up tags on discarded blue sharks. The data obtained from these tags will be used to help determine the migration pathways in the northwest Atlantic and to quantify the discard mortality.

Contact Information

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Steve Outhouse
    Media Relations
    (613) 998-1530
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Office of the Minister
    Sujata Raisinghani
    Press Secretary
    (613) 992-3474