The habitat use of Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis; PBF) in nursery waters off the southern coast of Japan was investigated using archival tags over a 3 year study period (2012–2015), and the data were used to examine the free-ranging habitat preferences of PBF and the relationship between their horizontal movements and the path of the Kuroshio off the Pacific coast of Japan. The path of the Kuroshio fluctuated seasonally, leading to changes in water temperature that strongly influenced the habitat use of small PBF (2–3 months after hatching). Most PBF were present in coastal waters inshore of the path of the current, and their habitat use changed in response to the distance of the current from the coast. The Kuroshio typically flowed along the coast from summer to autumn, and PBF remained in the coastal waters off Kochi Prefecture during this period. In contrast, PBF quickly moved eastward in winter when the current moved away from the coast. Throughout the winter and spring, the area of habitat use extended widely from the eastern end of the southern coast of Japan (the Boso Peninsula) to the offshore Kuroshio Oyashio transition region. These findings suggest that the seasonal habitat use and movement behavior of juvenile BF are influenced by the distance of the Kuroshio axis from the coast, and the ultimate drivers are likely variations in oceanographic conditions and prey availability along the southern coast of Japan.
PUBLICATION AVAILABLE AT: www.lotek.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Fujioka-et-al-2018FO.pdf