Using Historical Fisheries Data to Predict Tuna Distribution Within the British Indian Ocean Territory Marine Protected Area, and implications for its management

Dunn, N., & Curnick, D. (2019). Using historical fisheries data to predict tuna distribution within the British Indian Ocean Territory Marine Protected Area, and implications for its management. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.


  1. Recently, several large marine protected areas (MPAs) have been established globally, and it is hoped that they will aid the recovery of populations of highly mobile, large pelagic species. Understanding the distribution of these species within MPAs is key to delivering effective management, but monitoring can be challenging over such vast areas of open ocean.
  2. Historical fisheries data, collected prior to MPA establishment, can provide an insight into the past distributions of target species. We investigated the spatial and temporal distribution of yellowfin (Thunnus albacares) and skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis) tuna catch using logbook data from the purse seine fishery in the British Indian Ocean Territory from 1996 to 2010, before it was established as an MPA in April 2010.
  3. Generalized additive models were used to predict tuna presence and relative abundance from fishing records in relation to temporal and environmental variables. Significant variables included sea salinity, temperature, and water velocity.
  4. Predictions from the models identified a distinct hotspot for large yellowfin tuna within the MPA, and areas of high predicted relative abundance of skipjack tuna. We recommend that these areas are used as focal points from which populations can be monitored and investigations into tuna residency time can occur, so that the effectiveness of the MPA in conserving highly mobile pelagic fish can be determined.

DOI: 10.1002/aqc.3204