Marine Science Faculty Publications

An Oceanographic Characterization of Swordfish (Xiphias Gladius) Longline Fishing Grounds in the Springtime Subtropical North Pacific

Document Type


Publication Date


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


During January–May, surface manifestation of multiple, individual basin-scale fronts accentuate the central North Pacific Subtropical Frontal Zone (STFZ) system. The most prominent of these fronts are climatologically located at 32°−34°N and at 28°−30°N latitudes [herein nominally referred to as the ‘Subtropical Front’ (STF) and the ‘South Subtropical Front’ (SSTF), respectively], although considerable interannual variability in both position and intensity is observed. This seasonally dynamic system is also the region typically targeted by the Hawaii-based swordfish (Xiphias gladius) longline fishing fleet, where the presence, position, and strength of the convergent fronts are believed to play a key role with regard to the catch and catch rates of swordfish. Information furnished by a recent series of meridional hydrographic surveys and concurrent satellite remote sensing data elucidate structural patterns and coupling of the physics and biology associated with these fronts. This enables a re-characterization of the spring North Pacific STFZ and offers new insight into the seasonal variability of the phytoplankton dynamics in the subtropical North Pacific.

On synoptic time scales, geographical positioning of the fronts may be systematically identified through surface outcropping of diagnostic thermohaline isopleths and therefore readily discerned from both shipboard surveys and by spaceborne sensors. The STF during spring can be characterized by the surface expression of the 34.8 isohaline and the 17°C isotherm within the frontal gradient. Biologically, the STF marks the transition from low chloropigment (chlorophyll + phaeopigments), nutrient-depleted surface waters to the south to a more productive regime to the north. To the south, the 20°C and 35.0 surface isotherm and isohaline, respectively, are characteristically embedded in the thermohaline gradients associated with the SSTF. A sharp increase in depth-integrated chloropigment is also observed at the SSTF and is ascribed to an increase in the concentration and thickness of the subsurface chloropigment maximum (SCM) prompted by the shoaling of the nutricline with the thermocline structure into the euphotic zone.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Fisheries Oceanography, v. 11, issue 5, p. 251-266