When most of us think of tuna, we think of the can. Maybe we remember “Charlie Tuna” from the old commercials. What many people don’t realize is that these amazing animals are at the pinnacle of fish evolution. Tuna are capable of covering vast distances, traversing the entire Pacific Ocean in a matter of days. They are incredible athletes, described as the “Olympians of the sea.” They are sleek, powerful and oftentimes, massive animals. A bluefin tuna can grow up to 1,500 pounds and 15 feet long. And for generations, they were so abundant it was thought that you could never take all the tuna from the sea. Things change. Our insatiable appetite combined with the technical advances that allow us to over-harvest have pushed tuna to the brink. Scientists are now racing to learn more about these incredible animals in the hope of saving them. Learn more at Tag-A-Giant.

Another species that TOPP (Tagging of Pacific Predators) is tracking is the Leatherback Turtle. Reaching 7 feet long and weighing 2000 pounds, leatherbacks have survived in the world’s oceans for 100 million years. Now they may only have decades left. While sea turtles are not being commercially fished, they still face daunting challenges in the open ocean. They are often accidentally caught and drowned in fisherman’s long-lines and nets. And pollution is also taking a nasty toll. In the water, common plastic bags look very similar to the turtles’ favorite food: jellyfish. The problem is, plastic bags aren’t easy to digest. But the biggest problem the turtles face may be on land. Over harvesting of turtle eggs has long been a problem for sea turtles but now the biggest concern is over development of their nesting beaches. Turtles need a sandy beach to lay their eggs. Unfortunately, people also enjoy vacationing in the same type of places. Humans looking for that seaside getaway are quickly gobbling up the sea turtles nesting grounds. Researchers are now working hard to save these vital nesting grounds to make sure the turtles can survive.

Producer’s Notes: Tagging Pacific Predators 12 March,2016Chris Bauer

  • Mike

    Hi Chris,

    I wanted to alert you to another application of TOPP’s work: the Great Turtle Race II. Starting June 2nd, leatherback sea turtles will be swimming in a trans-Pacific race from California to the International dateline.

    Throughout the race, viewers can follow each turtle’s journey across the Pacific and learn about the obstacles it will face along the way. The event is a a global bid to raise awareness and funds for the critically endangered leatherback turtle.

    The Great Turtle Race II will be one of the first large-scale outreach efforts to the people of China by a US-based conservation NGO. A simultaneous, mandarin-language version of Great Turtle Race II website is expected to bring the race’s messages to approximately 100 million Chinese citizens.

  • Chris Bauer

    And they’re off!! The Great Turtle Race II has begun! Satellite tagged Leatherback turtles from both sides of the Pacific Ocean are “competing” in a trans-Pacific marathon to the international dateline! Our local turtle Saphira II out of Half Moon Bay, California has taken the lead! Go Saphira II! Swim like the wind!

    To follow your favorite Leatherback turtle, log on to http://www.greatturtlerace.com/
    Please, no wagering.

  • Chris Bauer

    For people in the Bay Area who are interested in learning more about the Leatherback Turtle, there will be a Pacific Leatherback Turtle Research & Ecology lecture with Scott Benson, Thursday, December 18, 7 pm. at the Randall Museum in San Francisco. Marine Turtle researcher Scott Benson of NOAA will discuss the past, present and future of leatherback turtle research in the northeast Pacific. Leatherbacks have survived in our oceans for millions of years, but in the last 25 years their population has decreased by ~ 90%.

    Registration is required. Please contact Justin Holl at justin.holl@farallones.gov. Directions to Randall Museum: http://randallmuseum.org. Suggested $5 donation.

  • Chris Bauer

    With the sushi economy, bluefin tuna fetch a handsome price on the open market. This has helped lead to over-fishing, making the big fish more scarce and thus, yes, more valuable on the open market… which lead to them being further exploited and over-fished. Today it was reported that a giant bluefin tuna was auctioned off for the insane price of 16.3 million yen ($177,000) at the world’s largest wholesale fish market in Japan. To read more about the story see this AP report: http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_14125445?source=rss

  • Chris Bauer

    Biologists from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) are now proposing to designate 70,000 square miles of ocean along the West Coast as critical habitat for critically endangered leatherback turtles.

    According to the San Francisco Chronicle news report, if approved, “the regulations would restrict projects that harm the turtles or their food. The government would be required to review and, if necessary, regulate agricultural waste, pollution, oil spills, power plants, oil drilling, storm water runoff and liquid natural gas projects along the California coast between Long Beach and Mendocino County and off the Oregon and Washington coasts.”

    Read more here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/01/06/MNTL1BDUTN.DTL#ixzz0bqqAfIVp

    And to read the whole report, log onto:
    http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/E9-31310.htm

  • Chris Bauer

    Treehugger gives a sobering report on how the huge BP oil spill will affect critically endangered bluefin tuna.

    “The Gulf of Mexico, where a massive oil spill is taking place right now, is also the spawning ground for the critically endangered (according to the IUCN Red List) bluefin tuna. Stocks have already fallen about 90% since the 1970s, and they could fall even closer to extinction because of this catastrophe. Indeed, the location of the spill and the timing are particularly bad for the bluefin tuna…”

    Read more here: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/05/bp-gulf-oil-spill-impact-on-endangered-bluefin-tuna-fish.php?campaign=th_rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+treehuggersite+%28Treehugger%29&utm_content=My+Yahoo

  • Chris Bauer

    STORY UPDATE: Researchers with Tagging of Pacific Predators (www.topp.org), have discovered the young white shark featured on Quest’s “Great White Sharks in Captivity” story (http://www.kqed.org/quest/television/web-extra-), has died after being returned to the wild by the Monterey Bay Aquarium last November. Reports are she was killed after being caught in a gill net off Baja California.

    TOPP was following the young great white shark using two electronic tracking tags, one of which was recovered by Mexican researchers who collaborate with the aquarium to study migrations of young great white sharks. White sharks are legally protected in both California and Mexico but are often caught accidentally by commercial fishermen.

    For more information, see: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/aa/pressroom/web/PressRelease_view.aspx?enc=yGUTaOGs/HnPeMduhRE6sg==

    One of the things TOPP has discovered through their research on White Sharks is “the Northern California great white shark population is isolated from the world’s other white sharks; other studies suggest the same is true for the population off Mexico.” According to Dr. Barbara Block, a professor of marine sciences at Stanford University and chief scientist of the TOPP program, “Our tagging programs on adults and juveniles along the California coast show that we have several white shark neighborhoods in central California and northern Mexico. Adults from both regions spend half the year foraging around coastal pinniped colonies and the other half far from shore. The juvenile tagging program has helped us to better understand that young-of-the-year pups live close to the coast in warmer habitats, where they’re vulnerable to local fishing gear. By learning where they go, we can help ensure their future by establishing programs to monitor these unique populations.”

  • Chris Bauer

    STORY UPDATE: According to an AP report today, “France, Spain and other Mediterranean nations forced the European Union to retreat Thursday from an ambitious plan to save the threatened and prized bluefin tuna.”
    Read more: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=12178850

  • Chris Bauer

    STORY UPDATE: Curious as to why bluefin tuna are disappearing from the world’s oceans? Here’s this report from Tokyo- Yesterday a giant bluefin tuna fetched a record 32.49 million yen, or nearly $396,000 US, in the first auction of the year at the world’s largest wholesale fish market. Nearly $400,000 for one fish.

    To read more, see: http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_17013218?nclick_check=1

  • Chris Bauer

    STORY UPDATE: The Pacific Ocean’s ‘corridors of life’ – “Two broad ocean highways where countless sea creatures migrate, feed, mate and reproduce have been discovered running across the Pacific by scientists tuning in to thousands of radio signals.”

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/06/22/BAMB1JVGU5.DTL#ixzz1Q8Kb5XBA

  • Chris Bauer

    STORY UPDATE: Greenpeace has released new video footage captured by a tuna industry whistleblower revealing the routine slaughter of marine species, including whale sharks, rays and whales. To see the footage go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JlKwoUtMk4
    (Warning, contains graphic images)

Author

Chris Bauer

Chris Bauer is a Freelance Media Producer with over 20 years experience working in broadcast television; producing sports, history, technology, science, environment and adventure related programming. He is a two-time winner of the international Society of Environmental Journalists Award for Outstanding Television Story and has received multiple Northern California Emmy Awards. Some of his Quest stories have been featured in the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival, Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, United Nations Association Film Festival, the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and the Environmental Film Festival in Washington DC. A 5th generation Bay Area resident and a graduate of St. Mary's College of California, his hobbies include canoeing, snowboarding, wood-working and trying to play the ukulele. He and his family live in Alameda, CA.

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