NGOs press for Pacific bluefin protection ahead of new catch negotiations

Published on
June 22, 2016

Citing “dangerously low population levels” of Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis), a group of NGOs and individuals have petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to protect the species under the Endangered Species Act.

“Without help, we may see the last Pacific bluefin tuna sold off and lost to extinction,” said Catherine Kilduff of the Center for Biological Diversity. “New tagging research has shed light on the mysteries of where majestic bluefin tuna reproduce and migrate, so we can help save this important species. Protecting this incredible fish under the Endangered Species Act is the last hope, because fisheries management has failed to keep them off the path toward extinction.”  

As well as the the Center for Biological Diversity, petitioners requesting that NMFS lists Pacific bluefin as endangered include The Ocean Foundation, Earthjustice and Greenpeace, as well as sustainable seafood supplier Prime Seafood.

“Unrestrained commercial overfishing condoned by the international bodies has already allowed Pacific bluefin tuna to fall to just 2.6 percent of its un-fished level,” said Jim Chambers, owner of Prime Seafood. “Bluefin are the most highly evolved of all fishes and because of their great power and stamina are deservedly considered a supreme challenge in big game fishing. We simply need to save the world’s most valuable fish before it’s too late.”

Starting 27 June in La Jolla, California, countries will negotiate future catch reductions for Pacific bluefin at the 90th meeting of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC).

IATTC is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Its 21 members include the United States, the EU, China and Japan.

In a joint letter to IATTC, another group of NGOs that includes WWF, Monterey Bay Aquarium and the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) underscored that the Pacific bluefin stock is in a “dire state.”

“The stock is severely overfished with overfishing occurring, and model projections may not be reliable given uncertainty associated with key model parameters and the threat of continued low recruitment,” said the letter. “We urge the Commission to develop a science-based, long-term and Pacific-wide management framework that will end overfishing and rebuild Pacific bluefin tuna populations to a level that can produce maximum sustainable yield. In addition, we encourage the Commission to extend the current Resolution (C-14-06) into the future and require that the stock be assessed annually so as to monitor it closely.”

Meanwhile, The Pew Charitable Trusts believes that IATTC Resolution C-14-06, as drafted, is not adequate to effectively protect or rebuild the Pacific bluefin population, saying that this year the Commission must act proactively and begin implementing long-term measures that will ensure the species’ recovery.

Among Pew’s calls are a reduction in the commercial catch limits by at least 20 percent from current levels and an agreement on implementing a Pacific-wide, long-term recovery plan that will return the bluefin population to 25 percent of its un-fished biomass by 2025 with a 75 percent or greater probability.

This plan should be in place no later than the 2017 Commission meeting, the NGO said.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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