Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) has been deemed as not endangered and not in need of protection by NOAA. (Photo: NOAA/FIS)
Pacific bluefin tuna not at risk, according to NOAA
Wednesday, August 09, 2017, 02:50 (GMT + 9)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries (NOAA) branch considers that the Pacific bluefin tuna is not endangered and that, therefore, does not in need protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The determination was announced by Chris Yates, assistant regional administrator for protected resources, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region, in response to a petition from activists and environmental groups across the nation asking the Trump administration to list Pacific bluefin tuna as endangered.
Representatives from the Western Pacific Advisory Council highlighted that most fishermen on Kauai do not catch Pacific bluefin tuna, but they claimed that longline fishermen and those who venture away from Kauai shores do catch them.
A scientific review team found that the population is large enough to avoid the risks associated with a small population, such as a year with low survival, and that Pacific bluefin has recovered from similarly low levels in the past.
“What we did find was that fishing was really the highest risk to species of the 25 possible threats,” said Matthew Craig, chair of the Pacific Bluefin Tuna Status Review Team.
Craig recalled that 2014 was the last time they did a stock assessment of the species and they found that there were 1.6 million individual bluefin tuna, about 140,000 at reproductive size.
Last October, NOAA Fisheries concluded that the petition from environmental groups and conservationists presented substantial information that a listing may be warranted, and convened a Status Review Team of fisheries, conservation biologists and other experts to assess the current status of the species.
The Scientific Review Team evaluated 25 different threats to Pacific bluefin, including commercial fisheries, prey depletion, marine pollution and climate change.
All the available trend data, when taking those threats into consideration, pointed toward stable or increasing viability, according to NOAA.
Pacific Bluefin Tuna Commercial Harvest Status | The above information is current as of May 19, 2017 (Source: NOAA)
While Pacific bluefin numbers are low relative to historic levels, the Status Review Team found that the species is likely at low risk of extinction.
Pacific bluefin tuna are among the largest and fastest fish in the ocean. While all Pacific bluefin spawn in the western Pacific Ocean off Japan, some also migrate across the Pacific and may spend up to several years off the US West Coast. Japanese fisheries land the most Pacific bluefin, followed by Mexico, the US, Korea and Taiwan.
On the other hand, researchers reported that while overfishing is something that should be monitored, fishermen are not catching more than the yield of the bluefin spawning rate.
“In almost every study, we found that the population is projected to be be increased or continue as steady,” said Craig.
The data that has come out is showing signs for improvement, mainly because there is a new cohort that will be reproductively ready, he added.
The enxt stock assessment has been scheduled for 2018.