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Publication Date



UM campus only

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Marine Affairs and Policy (Marine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Daniel Benetti

Second Committee Member

David Die

Third Committee Member

Juan Agar


The Eastern stock of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus thynnus) has experienced a steep decline, 74.2%, in recent decades, mainly driven by large unreported catches and growth of the capture-based aquaculture of this species in the Mediterranean. This study addresses the potential food-web effects on trophic linkages in the ecosystem through the removal of both small pelagic fish species and wild bluefin tuna (BFT) for capture-based aquaculture operations. An Ecopath model of the Southern Catalan Sea (Western Mediterranean) was modified to include a BFT farm supplied entirely by the area modeled (Coll et al, 2006). Six scenarios were developed to simulate possible changes to the system using Ecosim, including the continued growth of aquaculture operations, as well as changes to the total allowable catch for BFT as set by ICCAT. Species not directly connected with the production of BFT showed large fluctuations in biomass and yield as a result of these simulations. Using these models, increases in biomass of lower trophic level functional groups were observed with reductions in biomass from other top trophic level predators. Jellyfish and benthopelagic fish exhibited an increase in biomass, the largest being 8.76% for jellyfish and 69.76% for benthopelagic fish, while wild BFT biomass decreased 87.26%. Atlantic bonito and swordfish showed similar rates of decline in biomass levels. These outcomes stress that fishing at top trophic levels can have unforeseen outcomes on the structure of the ecosystem, due to the complexity of the food web. Capture-based aquaculture of Atlantic bluefin tuna can be expected to increase along the proposed scenario levels, due to the decision not to place this species on Appendix I of CITES during the CITES meeting of 2010. This study suggests that farming activity has additional impacts on the ecosystems that should be taken into account when evaluating the suitability of this industry and projecting the trends towards the future. Results suggest that, in the case of the Western Mediterranean Sea, increasing BFT farming activities will likely contribute towards further degradation of an already highly exploited marine ecosystem. The development of hatchery technology to close the life cycle and produce juvenile BFT for stocking cages as well as using artificial diets during the grow out stage are required to minimize long-term impacts and support industry expansion.


Ecosystem Based Model; EwE; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna