Authors: Melissa Traverso, Ryan Boarman, Jack Pan
Mentors/Advisers (affiliation): Benjamin Holt (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, JPL)
Team Location: JPL in Pasadena, California
Abstract: The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus thynnus) is one of the largest vertebrates in the world. The species is in high demand at sushi markets and is a highly political species managed internationally by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT). The Gulf of Mexico and Southwest Atlantic are two important habitats for this particular species; however there is a large variance in estimates of adult Bluefin Tuna spawning which is suspected to relate to Sargassum locations. This research focused on extending Earth science research results to the existing National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) decision-making system for population assessment and management of the Bluefin Tuna. The research team was a multi-sector and multi-disciplinary team composed of representatives from government (NOAA and NMFS), academic (University of South Florida Institute for Marine Remote Sensing) and commercial (Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service Inc.) institutions. The goal was to reduce the variance in the estimates of adult Atlantic Bluefin Tuna spawning stock abundance in the Gulf of Mexico and Southwest Atlantic through the development of spawning site habitat classification and catchability indices of the larvae. These indices were derived from the innovative use of several sensors onboard Earth-orbiting satellites, with emphasis on the use of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data.