Scrolling Headlines:

UMass football selected to finish fourth in MAC East preseason poll -

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Legislature overrides Baker’s UMass budget cut -

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Report: UMass football’s Todd Stafford arrested Saturday morning in Stamford, Connecticut -

Monday, July 20, 2015

UMass names Molly O’Mara newly-created associate director of athletics for communications and PR -

Monday, July 20, 2015

Baker approves state budget, UMass to receive $5.25 million less than legislature’s proposed figure -

Friday, July 17, 2015

UMass bathroom policy to provide comfort, safety for transgender and non-gender conforming students -

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Long-time UMass professor Normand Berlin, 83, dies -

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

UMass professor and poet James Tate dies at 71 -

Thursday, July 9, 2015

State legislators propose budget, UMass could receive almost $532 million -

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Cause of death determined for UMass student Chloe Malast -

Monday, July 6, 2015

Nick Mariano, Zach Oliveri transferring from UMass men’s lacrosse program -

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Four months after banning Iranian students from certain graduate programs, UMass announces new measures to ensure compliance with U.S. law -

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Justin King sentenced to eight to 12 years in prison -

Monday, June 29, 2015

Two future UMass hockey players selected in 2015 NHL Draft -

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Supreme Court ruling clears way for same-sex marriage nationwide -

Friday, June 26, 2015

Former UMass center Cady Lalanne taken 55th overall by Spurs in 2015 NBA Draft -

Friday, June 26, 2015

Second of four men found guilty on three counts of aggravated rape in 2012 UMass gang rape case -

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Boston bomber speaks out for first time: ‘I am sorry for the lives I have taken’ -

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

King claims sex with woman was consensual during alleged 2012 gang rape -

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Wrongful death suit filed in death of UMass student -

Thursday, June 18, 2015

UM researchers study Bluefin tuna in the Gulf

The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was an ecological disaster that has been getting a decreasing amount of media attention since its height during the summer of last year. Although there have been massive efforts to control the spill since then, environmental researcher Molly Lutcavage and her team of scientists believe that there is more work left to be done.



Lutcavage is the head of the Large Pelagics Research Center located in Gloucester Mass., as well as an expert on bluefin tuna. Large Pelagics Research Center is a facility of the University of Massachusetts for research.

She has suggested that money be diverted from the BP recovery fund in order to gauge the long-term effects of the oil spill on the gulf ecosystem, as well as the organisms that call it home.  Once the damage is assessed, she said strategies for recovering the affected populations can be developed.

“It is not too late to invest funds from BP to support teams of experts to develop effective strategic plans that identify, prioritize and provide methodologies for collecting essential data,” Lutcavage said in the current issue of the journal Science

In particular, Lutcavage is focusing on the spill’s effect on the bluefin tuna. She is worried about this species because the spill coincided precisely with the animals spawning period.  In an article from the Working Waterfront, Lutcavage said, “If bluefin eggs and larvae come in direct contact with surface oil, it will kill them.”  She also added that slightly older larvae and juvenile tuna could die from indirect effects through ingesting copepods or other prey.

Prized for its dark, rich meat, the bluefin tuna often sells for high prices to be used in sushi.  Overfishing during the past 30 years has nearly brought this species to its knees, and the oil spill is not making things any better.

Many scientists have stated that the Gulf of Mexico is the only spawning area for the Western Bluefin tuna.  For a species that was already on the verge of making the endangered species list, this set back could be devastating to future generations.

Last October, the European Space Agency published a study estimating that nearly 20% of the Bluefin tuna population has been eliminated as a result of the spill.  However, there is some debate as to the accuracy of this study because the group used computer models to develop their findings, which are often thought to be inexact and dependent upon circumstantial evidence.

A parallel study conducted by NOAA laboratories predicted a much more conservative loss, estimating that only 10% of the bluefin tuna population would be killed.

Along with graduate students and fellow researchers from the University of Massachusetts, Lutcavage headed a team that implanted tracking tags on 41 Bluefin tuna off the coasts of Nova Scotia and Cape Cod.  Of these 41, 56% traveled to the Gulf of Mexico during spawning periods, according to the study published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 

According to Lutcavage, these results indicate that there may be other spawning areas for the fish that are unknown to researchers.  Another possibility is that the organisms do not reproduce each year.  In any case, these findings are good news for researchers because it indicates that there may not be as large an effect on the species as once thought.

Though Lutcavage said she is worried about the possible effects on the Bluefin tuna population, she also notes that net impact of the spill is difficult to determine because so much about these animals is still unknown.  She said, “The impact of that loss is difficult to assess because bluefin migration paths, reproductive habits and early life history are inadequately resolved.”

To further complicate things, scientists do not agree on the effect oil has on fish populations.  After the infamous Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, scientists studied the local populations closely. After the spill, the population of herring dropped significantly, but this drop could not be directly attributed to the presence of oil in the water.  According to scientists, the decrease in population could have been a result of a number of different pollutants unrelated to the oil spill.

The net effect of the BP oil spill is yet to be determined.  However, one thing is for sure, Dr. Lutcavage and her team will continue to research the bluefin tuna in hopes of learning more about their habits.  One day, they may be able to use this information to bring the population back to what it once was.

Zachary Weishar can be reached at

One Response to “UM researchers study Bluefin tuna in the Gulf”
  1. Raymond Kane says:

    Once again, mentioned in your 6th paragraph,bluefin tuna have been over-fished to the point of listing them on the ES. Mention blame where blame is due, the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic fisheries have over-fished their ICCAT quotas annually two and three fold. The western Atlantic fisheries have been in compliance for just as many years as the eastern Atlantic hasn’t. If you writers insist on throwing curveballs to entice a reading audience, please understand the facts.


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