Pew calls for commercial fishing ban on “highly depleted” bluefin tuna in Pacific Ocean

Published on
July 20, 2016

With the Pacific bluefin tuna population at 2.6 percent of its historic size and international commissions failing to agree on a recovery plan, on Tuesday, 19 July, The Pew Charitable Trusts called for a two-year moratorium on commercial fishing to allow stocks to rebuild.

Last month, a dozen other environmental groups including Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and Earthjustice, submitted a petition to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service to list the Pacific bluefin tuna as endangered, granting it the highest levels of protection the United States offers animal species, according to National Public Radio.

“Pacific-wide, bluefin are now imperiled across their full range to a degree beyond anything ever seen for a tuna population. It is time for those responsible for managing this species to consider the science and use the tools at their disposal to help bluefin tuna recover,” Pew’s director of global tuna conservation Amanda Nickson said. “If governments fail to take immediate action, a population collapse isn’t just possible—it’s inevitable.”

A major problem affecting bluefin tuna stocks is that as much as 98 percent of landed fish are juveniles that have never reproduced, according to Catherine Kilduff, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

"We feel this is a recipe for extinction,” Kilduff told NPR.

The U.S. is responsible for about five percent of the annual catch of Pacific bluefin tuna and about three percent of its global consumption, while Japan and Mexico accounting for much larger shares of the 37 million pounds of Pacific bluefin tuna caught annually.

“Still, the United States, as a member of these international management bodies, has a responsibility to act, and is well placed to catalyze international action, because its fishery managers have moved to limit pressure on the population,” Nickson said.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission manage the majority of the Pacific bluefin catch, but both have failed for to agree on a Pacific-wide recovery plan that will end overfishing and return the population to healthy levels, Pew said.

“Governments involved in this fishery have known for many years that they need to act in order to drive a bluefin recovery, and yet overfishing continues. An initial two-year commercial fishing ban would protect the species by ending overfishing, Nickson said. ““A commercial ban would also give international fishery managers an opportunity to implement an appropriate rebuilding plan. If adequate measures are not in place by 2018, a trade ban through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) could be the only remaining option to safeguard the species.”

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