Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Research Programme - Satellite and Accelerometer Tagging

The Marine Institute in partnership with experts from Stanford University, Acadia University, Queen's University Belfast, Trinity College Dublin and Exeter University have undertaken an Atlantic bluefin tuna (ABFT) tagging programme in the ocean waters of south and west Donegal since 2016. The programme has been funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) in order to improve understanding of the Atlantic Bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) stocks and its migratory patterns.

BackgroPop up satellite archival tags used to track ABFT. Photo Credit Ross O'Neill, Marine Institute. und

In 2005, a study using archival satellite tags carried out by experts from An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and Stanford University highlighted the potential importance of the Irish coast as migratory route and foraging grounds for bluefin tuna. It identified the Irish coast as a possible way station for bluefin tuna undertaking migrations to the Balearic Islands and other known Mediterranean spawning regions. Tagging of ABFT in Irish waters demonstrated movement between European foraging grounds, breeding regions in the eastern Mediterranean, as well as potential links to spawning areas in the Western Atlantic. However, there was a sudden and dramatic decline in the occurrence of bluefin tuna in Irish coastal waters after 2005 and they have only reappeared in similar concentrations since 2015. Given these previous insights and the reappearance of these large predatory oceanic migrants in Irish waters, DAFM requested that the Marine Institute undertake a bluefin tuna tagging programme during the autumn of 2016 to support the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) Grand Bluefin Year Programme (GBYP) Atlantic research programme for bluefin tuna.

Programme Objectives

  •  Tag Atlantic Bluefin tuna along the Irish coastline using pop-up satellite archival tags(PSAT)
  •  Use data transmitted from the data logger tags (PSAT) to gain a greater understanding of stock origin, habitat utilisation and large scale movements of ABFT
  •  Use programme findings to inform bluefin tuna stock assessment and Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) frameworks.
  •  Carry out accelerometer studies in order to understand the effect of angling capture on specimens post release.Tagged Bluefin tuna prior to release. Photo Credit Ross O'Neill, Marine Institute.

Currently 49 ABFT have been tagged with PSAT tags off the south coast of Donegal and a further 5 have been tagged with accelerometers. In 2016, a total of 16 ABFT were tagged with PSATs. In 2017, 9 ABFT were tagged with PSATs and a further three with accelerometers.

In 2018, 24 ABFT were tagged including 10 on behalf of ICCAT with a further two ABFT released with accelerometers. Some tags have remained on these fish for over 240 days. Tracks have been generated from 35 tags to date and results are being processed.


If a PSAT tag is found, a reward of €100 is offered for its return to the Marine Institute along with the location of its retrieval (latitude and longitude).

To report a tag and claim a reward please contact Hugo Maxwell on +353 91387200

Survey Reports

Click on the following links for survey reports for 2016 and 2017.

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Tagging Programme in Ireland 2017

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Tagging Programme in Ireland 2016

Map of tagging locations for the 2017 tagging effort in Donegal Bay, Ireland. Map Credit to Hugo Maxwell, Marine Institute.

 Marine InstituteAcadia UniversityQueens UniversityUniversity of ExeterEuropean CommissionStanford UniversityICCAT