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Population connectivity of pelagic megafauna in the Cuba-Mexico-United States triangle

graphic from paper
Feb 12 2019

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Jay R. Rooker, Michael A. Dance, R. J. David Wells, Matthew J. Ajemian, Barbara A. Block, Michael R. Castleton, J. Marcus Drymon, Brett J. Falterman, James S. Franks, Neil Hammerschlag, Jill M. Hendon, Eric R. Hoffmayer, Richard T. Kraus, Jennifer A. McKinney, David H. Secor, Gregory W. Stunz & John F. Walter

Scientific Reports volume 9, Article number: 1663 (2019)

The timing and extent of international crossings by billfishes, tunas, and sharks in the Cuba-Mexico-United States (U.S.) triangle was investigated using electronic tagging data from eight species that resulted in >22,000 tracking days. Transnational movements of these highly mobile marine predators were pronounced with varying levels of bi- or tri-national population connectivity displayed by each species. Billfishes and tunas moved throughout the Gulf of Mexico and all species investigated (blue marlin, white marlin, Atlantic bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna) frequently crossed international boundaries and entered the territorial waters of Cuba and/or Mexico. Certain sharks (tiger shark, scalloped hammerhead) displayed prolonged periods of residency in U.S. waters with more limited displacements, while whale sharks and to a lesser degree shortfin mako moved through multiple jurisdictions. The spatial extent of associated movements was generally associated with their differential use of coastal and open ocean pelagic ecosystems. Species with the majority of daily positions in oceanic waters off the continental shelf showed the greatest tendency for transnational movements and typically traveled farther from initial tagging locations. Several species converged on a common seasonal movement pattern between territorial waters of the U.S. (summer) and Mexico (winter).