Alternate Title

Consequences of Ocean Scale Hypoxia Constrained Habitat for Tropical Pelagic Fishes

Document Type



Large areas of cold hypoxic water occur as distinct strata in the eastern tropical Pacific and Atlantic oceans as a result of high productivity initiated by intense nutrient upwelling. Recent studies show that this stratum restricts the depth distribution of tropical pelagic marlins, sailfish, and tunas in the eastern tropical Pacific by compressing the acceptable physical habitat into a narrow surface layer. This layer extends downward to a variable boundary defined by a shallow thermocline, often at 25 m, above a barrier of cold hypoxic water. The depth distributions of marlin and sailfish monitored with electronic tags and mean dissolved oxygen (DO) and temperature profiles show that this cold hypoxic environment constitutes a lower habitat boundary in the eastern tropical Pacific, but not in the western North Atlantic. where DO is not limiting. However. hypoxia-based habitat compression has not actually been demonstrated in the eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean, despite this region having similar oceanographic features to the eastern tropical Pacific. This paper explores the possibility that habitat compression of tropical pelagic fishes exists in the eastro tropical Atlantic and examines possible consequences of this phenomenon. We used Atlantic-wide catches of yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) as an example why habitat compression off west Africa could eventually affect the total Atlantic stock.

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