Modelling the Spatial Behaviour of a Tropical Tuna Purse Seine Fleet
Industrial tuna fisheries operate in the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but concerns over sustainability and environmental impacts of these fisheries have resulted in increased scrutiny of how they are managed. An important but often overlooked factor in the success or failure of tuna fisheries management is the behaviour of fishers and fishing fleets. Uncertainty in how a fishing fleet will respond to management or other influences can be reduced by anticipating fleet behaviour, although to date there has been little research directed at understanding and anticipating the human dimension of tuna fisheries. The aim of this study was to address gaps in knowledge of the behaviour of tuna fleets, using the Indian Ocean tropical tuna purse seine fishery as a case study. We use statistical modelling to examine the factors that influence the spatial behaviour of the purse seine fleet at broad spatiotemporal scales. This analysis reveals very high consistency between years in the use of seasonal fishing grounds by the fleet, as well as a forcing influence of biophysical ocean conditions on the distribution of fishing effort. These findings suggest strong inertia in the spatial behaviour of the fleet, which has important implications for predicting the response of the fleet to natural events or management measures (e.g., spatial closures).