When it comes to bluefin, patience is a virtue

By

April Forristall, SeafoodSource.com assistant editor

Published on
November 19, 2013

The 23rd annual International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meeting to negotiate a quota for bluefin tuna is this week, and already environmental organizations are having their say.

Both World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Pew Conservation Trust have stated that an increased quota — which is supported by ICCAT and being pushed for by member governments — is the wrong path.

WWF claims there was no scientific evidence conducted this year to support a quota increase, but if that’s the case, that means there’s no evidence to refute an increase in the quota, either.

ICCAT last month released its Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) report showing data that supports a small quota increase for Atlantic bluefin.

Many factors affect how the quota is determined and how assessments are conducted, including two different assessment models, one based on high recruitment potential and one on low recruitment potential, neither of which has been determined better than the other. Not to mention additional factors such as how the productivity of western Atlantic bluefin tuna are linked to the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks. Management actions taken for Atlantic bluefin will influence recovery in the western Atlantic due to mixing of the stocks.

ICCAT states there has not been enough time to detect with confidence the population response to the decreased quotas in 2009, 2010 and 2013. However, the available fishery indicators as well as the 2012 assessment suggest the spawning biomass of western bluefin continues to increase.

It’s no secret there is pressure from member governments to increase the quota beyond a clear scientific recommendation. Let’s hope that ICCAT is not increasing the quota just to bow to political pressure.

Everyone involved — from non-governmental organizations to harvesters to member governments — needs to be patient. Only time will tell the best course of action for bluefin stock recovery, and it seems to be on the right track. What’s one more year to wait for the next stock assessment to be sure that the recent efforts have been effective?

If no increase or even a decrease in the quota is what is needed to ensure the future of Atlantic bluefin, then I have to believe that ICCAT would stand its ground. The end game here is the same — save the stocks — without the fish, everyone’s out of business.

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