TERRAPUB Journal of Oceanography

Journal of Oceanography, Vol. 58 (No. 5), pp. 739-745, 2002

Hawaii Cyclonic Eddies and Blue Marlin Catches: The Case Study of the 1995 Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament

Michael P. Seki1*, Rick Lumpkin2 and Pierre Flament3

1 NOAA/NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center Honolulu Laboratory, 2570 Dole Street, Honolulu, HI 96822-2396, U.S.A.
2Department of Oceanography, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-4320, U.S.A.
3Department of Oceanography, SOEST, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI 96822, U.S.A.

(Received 9 October 2001; in revised form 8 March 2002; accepted 10 April 2002)

Abstract: The combination of prevailing northeasterly tradewinds and island topography results in the formation of vigorous, westward propagating cyclonic eddies in the lee of the Hawaiian Islands on time scales of 50-70 days. These mesoscale (~102 km) features are nowhere more conspicuous or spin up more frequently than in the Alenuihaha Channel between the Island of Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii. Cyclonic eddies in subtropical waters such as those around Hawaii vertically displace the underlying nutricline into the overlying, nutrient-depleted euphotic zone creating localized biologically enhanced patches. Insight into how these eddies may directly influence pelagic fish distribution is provided by examination of recreational fish catch data coinciding with the presence of eddies on the fishing grounds. We highlight the 1995 Hawaii International Billfish Tournament in which a cyclonic eddy dominated the ocean conditions during the weeklong event and the fish catch distribution differed significantly from the average historical tournament catch patterns. On the tournament fishing grounds, well-mixed surface layers and strong current flows induced by the eddy's presence characterized the inshore waters where the highest catches of the prized Pacific blue marlin (Makaira mazara) occurred, suggesting possible direct (e.g., physiological limitations) or indirect (e.g., prey availability) biological responses of blue marlin to the prevailing environment.

*Corresponding author E-mail: michael.seki@noaa.gov

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