There have been three Atlantic Bluefin Tuna caught off the Texas Coast in just a few short months. Which has lead scientists to beg the question, why are they here and how can we find more information about them?
After two of the tunas were caught in Port Aransas, the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation at the Harte Research Institute was called to collect some data.
Director of the Center for Sportfish science and Conservation, Dr. Greg Stunz and his team of scientists including Kesley Gibson, took otoliths or ear bones, from these tuna to find some information.
Dr. Stunz says that these Bluefin tuna are common in the gulf for spawning, but catching one is pretty rare. Which is why the Sportfish Center wanted to collect data on their growth and reproductivity. Stunz also says that Bluefin tuna are an endangered species and there are probably only 20-40,000 of them throughout the world. Some tuna even go for as much as $3 million in Japan, showing the high demand for these pelagic fish.
Ph.D student Kesley Gibson explains that if you take the core of the otoliths, then you can see the rings showing the age of the fish, similar to the rings in a tree.
From this data, the first Bluefin that was caught on May 7th at 564 lbs was a total age of 23.
The second tuna that was 638 lbs was just at 22 years of age. Gibson says that this is rare because most Bluefin are caught around age 15, and there usually isn’t much data collected from Bluefin between the ages of 20-30. The data also shows that these Bluefin mature at the age of 8, and past that age the growth of the tuna seems to slow down.
Tissue samples have also been collected but have not come back with any results just yet.
The Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation do encourage the public to inform them of any other Bluefin tuna caught. This way they can collect more data to find more about their existence in the Gulf of Mexico.