Plans to protect Pacific bluefin expected by 2016

Published on
September 4, 2015

A meeting among the varied international bodies that comprise the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission did not yield a consensus regarding measures to protect the struggling Pacific bluefin tuna fishery on 3 September.

The 10-nation commission was unable to agree upon either a short-term or long-term plan to reinvigorate the bluefin tuna population in the Pacific, which has shrunk by an estimated 96 percent when compared to unfished stock levels for the species. The commission could not obtain a three-quarters quorum as representatives from China, the Cook Islands, Vanuatu and the Philippines were not present for the latest meeting; as a result, any decisions regarding long-term protection plans for the Pacific bluefin fishery cannot be reached until 2016, according to the Japanese Fisheries Agency.

The commission made moves in 2014 to cut back on the allowable juvenile bluefin tuna catch, reducing it to half of what it was averaged to be in 2002-2004. However, continued inaction in the present could result in NGOs and conservationist groups eventually banning Pacific bluefin from international trade, the AP reports.

"Unfortunately, the only outcome of this week's meeting is a guarantee that the Pacific bluefin tuna population will decline even further because of the continued inaction of ten governments responsible for the management of this species," Amanda Nickson, director of global tuna conservation for The Pew Charitable Trusts.

"The international community may be forced to look at a global trade ban to help save this species," added Nickson in a statement.

A request by researchers to consider and study the effects of stricter fisheries management during the commission’s four-day meeting in Sapporo, Japan was not carried out by the fisheries group.

The Pacific bluefin tuna species could recover quickly, noted the AP, “since they are highly productive, spawning millions of eggs a year,” but markets may have to restrict sales to allow the juvenile fish, which make up the typical catch, to grow and reproduce. Environmental group Greenpeace suggested that Japan should restrict sales of bluefin tuna, and that Japanese representatives should continue to pursue emergency measures to aid the species, reported the AP.

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