WWF Plans Bluefin Tagging Research Project
World Wildlife Fund fisheries scientists hope a three-year Mediterranean tuna-tagging project, launching next Monday, will solve some mysteries about the migratory behavior of bluefin tuna.
The first phase of the project, called On the Med Tuna Trail, will focus on bluefin tuna stocks near Spain's Balearic Islands. Researchers will collect information on the position and depth of fish fitted with pop-up tags that record the information at a frequency of once per minute. The tags release at specified times and float to the surface to reveal data for satellites.
"The plan behind this project is to fill the gap between the little we do know about bluefin behavior in the Mediterranean and what we need to know," says Dr. Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries at WWF Mediterranean. "When we have better data, we would urge fisheries decision-makers to use it to make better-informed choices for the management of this endangered species."
The group says extreme overfishing, poor international conservation management and high levels of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing have caused "alarming" population declines. The group estimates annual bluefin landings to be 60,000 tons, which it says is double the level allowed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas and four times the amount considered sustainable by scientists.
"Bluefin tuna stocks are on the brink of collapsing, which would be catastrophic not only for the species, but for everyone who depends on these fish for their livelihoods and survival," says Mark Stevens, senior program officer for WWF's U.S. Marine Fisheries Program. "This project will help arm us with the information we need to fuel our work to restore tuna populations to healthy levels."