Tuna Research & Conservation Ctr., Stanford & Monterey Bay Aquarium, Tuna & Shark Tagging

The Tuna Research and Conservation Center is a collaboration between Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The mission of the TRCC is to advance the knowledge and understanding of tunas and other highly migratory marine fishes through research, education, and conservation. This mission is accomplished with a joint program that combines the resources and personnel dedicated to this goal from Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

TTuna in research institute for studyhe TRCC program draws upon the strength and excellence of both institutions, thus creating a unique hybrid between a private academic institution and public aquarium. Researchers, undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, research associates, technical staff, aquarists, and visiting scholars are all part of the TRCC program. In addition, a large contingent of dedicated and experienced fishers, scientists and volunteers help to carry out the field activities. The TRCC program provides a successful model for future partnerships between academic researchers and aquaria, zoos or museum personnel attempting to bridge programs with an emphasis on science, conservation and outreach.

The Facility

Tuna Research and Conservation Center, TRCC

At the center of the TRCC program is a unique facility, established at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station in September of 1994 for the maintenance of captive tunas. Located between Hopkins and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the TRCC facility consists of a 7500 square foot building that houses three holding tanks, each with its own life-support system. Two tanks hold 30,000 gallons (109 m3) each and one holds 90,000 gallons (327 m3) of sea water, freshly supplied from the aquarium’s off-shore intake. It also houses a suite of laboratories for carrying out physiological studies.

Tuna studied in controlled environment at TRCCThe TRCC staff, working in collaboration with aquarium personnel, maintain two large populations of tunas, one in the TRCC facility and one on exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The TRCC serves as a research center for basic biology of tunas and other highly migratory fishes, with an emphasis on the development of tagging technology, physiology, biomechanics and captive husbandry. Researchers and students from Stanford, the surrounding Monterey Bay Institutions, as well as the international community are involved with projects at the TRCC on the biology of these animals.

TOPP Tagging of Pacific Pelagics, tracking fish all over the Pacific Ocean. Click image to live see maps with locations of tagged fish from TOPP, Tagging of Pacific Pelagics.


There are all types of options based on location and it is very interesting website.    


Tuna Tagging

Bluefin tuna are monumental in size, speed, power, value, and charisma. They are among the largest fish on earth and make trans-oceanic migrations at speeds to rival the fastest racehorses. They dive to abyssal depths of nearly a mile and ply waters from the equator to frigid polar seas. Amazingly, they have the capacity to maintain a warm, stable body temperature throughout their wide thermal niche like a mammal or bird. They have captivated humans for millennia; images of bluefin once graced the same coins as Hercules.

Interview with George Shillinger, Director of Tag-A-Giantwith a mission to “reverse decline of Northern Bluefin tuna by supporting research to develop innovative and effective policy and conservation initiatives.”

Fourteen years of tuna tagging has shown that there are at least two stocks of Atlantic bluefin tuna that mix significantly on North Atlantic foraging grounds but separate to distinct spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico and Mediterranean Sea. Fish from both populations are affected by fisheries on both sides of the Atlantic due to this mixing. DNA analyses performed by TRCC scientists have corroborated the tagging data, showing conclusively that there are two separate populations of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Tag a Gain Poster, organization dedicated to tagging and tracking bluefin tuna Armed with a better understanding of mixing rates, scientists are now collaborating with colleagues in Canada and at NOAA to revise stock assessment methodologies to more accurately determine population structure and the number of fish remaining in the two populations.  Tagging has also revealed critical breeding habitat and foraging hotspots. A unique oscillatory diving behavior exhibited by fish in the Gulf of Mexico has been interpreted as courtship or spawning.


Pacific Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) Schooling, Mexico.

By examining the locations of the observed spawning and comparing it to remotely sensed oceanographic data, our scientists have developed a new dynamic habitat utilization model that can predict where bluefin are most likely to spawn by comparing real-time oceanographic data to habitat preferences identified through tagging; this type of model has the potential to allow implementation of a dynamic time-area closure to prevent bycatch mortality of spawning bluefin tuna. Likewise, feeding aggregations revealed by this research can be targeted for spatial management; recent research suggests that the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in particular, is an important congregation point for western bluefin prior to spawning.

Shark Tagging

The TRCC has had a long history of studying these ancient predators, focusing especially on the members of the Lamnid family–which includes makos and great whites. These highly specialized predators share a characteristic with the tunas – in that they are essentially warm-blooded, allowing them to maintain a high metabolic rate in a wide range of environmental conditions.

White Shark Tagging

White shark tagging for research by TRCCScientists have been studying white sharks at the Farallon Islands for more than 20 years, originally using visual observations and photography, and then using electronic tag technologies. The sharks arrive each fall at the islands to feed on the seals and sea lions that haul out there. Seals have a thick blubber layer, providing a rich food source for white sharks. To tag the white sharks, researchers first attract the sharks using a seal-shaped floating decoy which is drifting behind a small boat. As the shark approaches, the decoy is drawn alongside the boat and the researcher attaches the tag to the shark as it swims by. The tag may remain attached for up to a year recording data about the depth, temperature and location.

At a pre-programmed date, the tag is released from the shark and the data are transmitted via satellite back to the laboratory where they are analyzed. These studies have revealed that white sharks travel much more extensively that was previously imagined. White sharks from the Farallones routinely journey as far as the Hawaiian Islands and back in a single year. They also yielded another surprise, in that many white sharks spend a significant portion of the year in an area about halfway between Hawaii and the North American Continent, in what has come to be known as the White Shark Café. To date scientists have not determined whether white sharks go to the café to eat or find mates (or both). This is one of the many mysteries about this fascinating animal.

Salmon Shark Tagging

Researchers from the TRCC have been traveling to Prince William Sound, Alaska, since 1999 to tag salmon sharks. To date over 100 salmon sharks have been tagged with a variety of different electronic tags. We have learned that these are wide-ranging, highly mobile sharks, which exhibit regular migrations from the cold productive waters of Alaska and the Bering Sea to destinations as far south as Baja California and Hawaii. The unique anatomical and physiological characteristics of the salmon shark allow it to elevate its body temperature and maintain its high level of activity even in very cold waters, allowing it to function as an important apex predator throughout its broad environmental range.