The Tuna Saga
In Japan, a David vs Goliath Battle to Preserve Bluefin Tuna
Yale360 | The targeting of these bluefin tuna spawning aggregations in Japanese waters mirrors a similar practice in the Mediterranean Sea, where for roughly two decades purse-seine fleets from Spain, France, Italy, Japan, Libya, and other nations used spotter planes and sonar to net spawning Atlantic bluefin tuna. European fisheries scientists say that, as a result, bluefin tuna stocks in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic fell drastically. In the past several years, however, international fisheries agencies at last implemented tougher fishing restrictions, leading to a tentative recovery of bluefin populations in the Mediterranean.
In Japan, 347 of Iki’s family fishermen formed an organization in 2014 to lobby for stricter rules on the fishery, and last year they took the economically punishing step of halting their own harvest of adult tuna during the spawning season. The purse seiners did not follow suit. Nor has Japan’s government imposed an official ban on the practice; fisheries ministry officials argue that overfishing of juveniles, not spawning adults, is responsible for the species’ decline, and cite data from international management bodies to back up their claim. But some fisheries scientists say that the targeting of spawning bluefin is also threatening the future of the species.
Bigeye Tuna Enters Danger Zone
PT | "A new scientific analysis conducted for the WCPFC, released this summer, only confirms the worrying trend for bigeye. Even when looking at the broader dynamics of bigeye across the entire Pacific, the status of this tuna in the western and central waters appears just as poor as in the earlier assessment. In essence, no matter how you measure it, the stock has dwindled into a danger zone.
Pacific bigeye is mainly caught by two types of fishing gear—longlines and purse seines. Longline vessels use thousands of hooks at once to catch adult bigeye. Their catch primarily supplies fresh fish and sushi markets. This fleet is largely unmonitored and without effective regulation. Still, it is telling that longline vessels have been reporting lower catches of bigeye since the early 2000s."
Bluefin Tuna on the Ropes
AwN | Updating the original story there was no action taken at the Sapporo meeting in Japan. This means that the 4% of historic population of bluefin tuna have received no added protection from overfishing. Surely this is just another failure by brain dead humans who think that magic will save their livelihoods, and not intelligence. It is frightening that we could have overfished tuna to such extremely low levels and still not see a reason to implement needed conservation efforts. It seems as if we are nearing the point where an international trade ban is required to save the species.
"At the meeting that ended Sept. 3, the Northern Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) made no progress on either short-term steps to start the population’s recovery or longer-term measures to rebuild the species to healthy levels. The WCPFC’s Northern Committee is made up of the 10 governments responsible for sustainably managing Pacific bluefin.
Members could not even agree to ask scientists to evaluate the effects of stricter management on the future health of the population.
What’s even more concerning is that this lack of action follows the release of an analysis by Japan’s National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries concluding that the size of the Pacific bluefin stock will continue to decline through 2018—even with full implementation of existing conservation measures. The analysis also finds that over the next decade, there is a 1 in 3 chance that the Pacific bluefin population will fall to its lowest level ever recorded....
As with Atlantic bluefin, the path toward sustainable management of its Pacific cousin is clear. Today, eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin are showing signs of growth in response to sharp catch reductions following the 2010 trade ban threat, but members of the Northern Committee have so far proved unwilling to act to get the job done in the Pacific. Because managers again did not agree on needed protections, the international community may be forced to look at a global trade ban to help save this species.
The good news is that these are highly productive fish, spawning millions of eggs a year. If afforded additional protections soon, Pacific bluefin and the fisheries that depend on them could recover relatively quickly."
Urgent Action Needed
"Members of the Northern Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meet in Sapporo, Japan, Aug. 31 to Sept. 3, to determine what they will do about the dismal status of Pacific bluefin tuna.
As the body responsible for the conservation and management of this iconic species, the Northern Committee must act now to end decades of overfishing and reverse the bluefin population’s severe decline.
Recent news about Pacific bluefin tuna has been bad, and the latest science shows there are no signs of improvement. Like other apex predators, these fish take several years to mature and start reproducing, which makes them particularly vulnerable to overfishing. Decimated by decades of overfishing, the population has fallen 96 percent from unfished levels—and the numbers continue to drop."