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Ed Ricketts Memorial Lecture


Barbara A. Block

Tuna Research and Conservation Center, Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University, Pacific Grove, CA

Hot Tuna: Electronic Tagging of Highly Migratory Fish Reveal New Insights for Fisheries Management and Oceanography

Top marine predators such as tunas, sharks, billfishes, mammals and sea turtles have historically been difficult to study due to their size, speed and range over the vast oceanic habitat.The developement of small microprocessor-based data storage tags that are surgically implanted or satellite-linked provide marine researchers new technology for examining their movements, physiology and behaviors. When biological and physical data from the tags are combined with remote sensing, the relationship between the movements and behaviors of organisms can be linked to environment.Tag-bearing marine animals can function as autonomous ocean profilers providing oceanographic data wherever their migrations take them. These new animal-collected oceanic data complement more traditional methodologies for ocean observation. We have deployed over 1000 electronic tags on Northern bluefin tuna in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The tagging data are providing new insights into their seasonal movements, habitat utilization, breeding behaviors and population structures in both oceans. In addition, the data are revealing migration cooridors, hot spots and physical oceanographic patterns that are key to understanding how Northern bluefin tunas use the open ocean environment. The data are critical for establishing new boundaries for domestic and international management. Similar data are now being obtained simultaneously for twenty pelagic species in the Tagging of Pacific Pelagics (TOPP) program. Animal tracks are simultaneously being mapped upon images from multiple satellites that provide information on ocean structure, circulation, and production, which collectively define the attributes of biological hot spots. The results provide important new data for conservation and management of pelagic ecosystems in the 21st century.

About Barbara A. Block

Professor Barbara Block, the Prothro Professor of Biology at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station and the Co-Director of the Tuna Research and Conservation Center, has made remarkably broad contributions to marine science. Her work ranges from molecular studies of heat-generating mechanisms in warm-bodied pelagic fish like tuna and swordfish, to the development of informed conservation policies for these highly exploited species. Her field studies have revealed the vast distances over which these species move, a finding that fisheries policy makers must take into account. Her tracking studies also seek to identify the breeding sites of tuna, to better enable protection of these species during critical stages of their life histories. For her extraordinary studies in molecular evolution, thermal physiology, field behavior and conservation, Dr. Block has been recognized with several major awards, including a McArthur Foundation Fellowship, a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigators Award, and a Pew Foundation Marine Conservation Fellowship. As one of the world's leading marine scientists in the areas of evolutionary physiology and conservation, Dr. Block is a most deserving recipient of the Ricketts Award.

George Somero
Director - Hopkins Marine Station

History of Ricketts Memorial Award and Past Recipients

URL:    Reviewed: November 20, 2017
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