Sep 8, 2022
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Ocean whirlpools help marine predators find food

Ocean whirlpools help marine predators find food

A new study published in the journal Nature describes how marine predators use anticyclonic (clockwork) ocean eddies to forage for food. The study suggests that marine predators follow anticyclonic eddies as they move across the open ocean in pursuit of the biomass they contain.

Study lead author Dr. Martin Arostegui is a postdoctoral fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory.

“We found that anticyclonic eddies – clockwise rotating in the Northern Hemisphere – are associated with increased catches of pelagic predators compared to counterclockwise rotating eddies and regions outside the eddies,” explained Dr. Arostegui. “The increase in predator numbers in these eddies is likely due to selection of predators to inhabit areas with better feeding opportunities.”

The study data consisted of more than 20 years of commercial fishery information and satellite data on the North Pacific subtropical gir. This nutrient-poor region is home to marine predators of importance to the Pacific island nations.

The scientists studied marine predators at different latitudes and depths, including an ecologically diverse sample of warm-blooded and cold-blooded fish. The team concluded that anticyclonic eddies have an extensive effect on the food chain from top to bottom.

“The fact that these eddies contain more food means that they serve as mobile ‘hot spots’ in the ocean desert that predators encounter, choose and stay in to eat,” Dr. Arostegui said.

The study also highlights the relationship between the surface and deep oceans, which is important to consider when considering the management of deep sea fisheries. Better knowledge of deep sea predator fisheries and the ecosystem benefits of deep ocean eddies will help managers make more informed decisions.

“The ocean benefits predators, which then benefit humans as a food source,” says Dr. Arostegui. “Harvesting our food is something we need to understand to ensure practices are sustainable for both predators and the predators that rely on them. This is critical to ocean health and human well-being as we continue rely on these animals for food.”

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