Science lab

Pelagic Fisheries

Tunas, billfish, and sharks are among the world's most sought-after fish — yet large parts of their life histories remain unknown.

For some of these highly migratory species, even simple attributes such as longevity, reproduction, and stock structure remain elusive — due in part to their size and ability to cross entire oceans and political boundaries. The Pelagic Fisheries Lab, led by University of Maine professor Dr. Walt Golet, provides the biological information needed to improve stock status estimates, set appropriate quotas, ensure long-term sustainability, and preserve commercial and recreational fishing opportunities for these species.

We aim to:

  • Fill in life history knowledge gaps for highly migratory species such as tunas and billfish (including swordfish).
  • Collaborate with fishermen and researchers, domestically and internationally, to improve biological understanding and management practices, and to reduce stock assessment uncertainties.
  • Use innovative, rigorous, hands-on scientific methods to develop more accurate stock assessments and put fishery managers in a position to succeed.

Pelagic Fisheries Lab Team

Our Methods

Our international collaborations and advanced analysis techniques improve the management of valuable and elusive species.

Our work includes biological sampling and tissue dissections; analytical and statistical techniques to determine age and stock structure, reproductive state, and age of maturity; and genetic and stable isotope work that reveals foraging ecology, energetic condition, and stock structure. We use electronic and conventional tags to track migration pathways and stock mixing. We focus on commercial tunas (albacore, yellowfin, bigeye, skipjack, bluefin), billfishes (blue, white, and round-scale spearfish, broadbill swordfish), and several species of sharks. Long-standing partnerships with fishermen (recreational and commercial) and commercial dealers who provide us with the biological material needed to understand the life histories of these fishes makes our research possible. Dr. Golet works closely with research partners across the Atlantic basin like the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (Canada), AZTI, and the Spanish Institute of Oceanography. He also serves as an academic member of NOAA's Highly Migratory Species Advisory Panel and as the vice-chair on the ICCAT Advisory Committee where he advises on domestic and international research, assessment, and management.

  • Field sampling
  • Migration tracking
  • Genetic analyses
  • Trans-boundary research collaboration

Research Lab Projects

Strategic Partnership with the University of Maine

As part of our ongoing partnership, the University of Maine has two School of Marine Sciences faculty based at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. This partnership allows Associate professor Dr. Walt Golet, along with his lab’s staff and students, to take advantage of our fisheries research facility and Portland’s importance as a fishing port.

Dr. Walt Golet studies the populations and life histories of fish. Of all the fish he studies, bluefin tuna are one of his favorites. Their large size and unique physiology (these fish are warm-blooded!) are part of what make them so interesting, but on top of that, bluefin tuna also have a relatively mysterious life history. It’s these mysteries that drive Dr. Golet’s fascination.

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