Tuna International Accord Fails: BlueFin Tuna In Dire Straights Due to Overfishing

Yellowfin tuna, Thunnus albacares

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna did not accept the idea of reducing fishing of the Atlantic bluefin, whose populations have been declining for the past few decades from fishing pressure and, who could forget, the BP oil spill fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico. With the bluefin heading towards certain doom, the Center for Biological Diversity in May called for more protection, and invoked the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The decision to not reduce the international catch quotas by the commission means that the survival of the bluefin is riding very heavily on the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

“The international tuna commission had an opportunity to take bluefin tuna off the path to extinction but didn’t. Instead, the commission ignored years of scientific evidence about the perilous decline of bluefin tuna and chose to allow fishing to continue as if nothing is wrong,” commented a staff attorney at the Center, Catherine Kilduff.

Ever since 1969, when the international commission first came into being, the bluefin tuna – which was once very abundant – has been fished almost to the point of being extinct. The commission has set 2011 catch quotas of 12,900 tons, and 1,750 tons for the two different stocks of bluefin tuna: the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic stock and the western Atlantic stock. The quotas have dipped a little, but not enough. They came down from 13,500 tons and 1,800 tons respectively. That is a step in the right direction, but not enough to help the bluefin regain a toehold in the world.

“This level of fishing pressure sentences bluefin tuna to yet another decade of depletion,” Kilduff explained. “The fishing quotas adopted today bank on overly optimistic conditions for tuna recovery so that fishermen can continue to catch the prized bluefin tuna as they have in past years. As the Gulf of Mexico oil spill shows, bluefin face more threats than just fishing.”