Pacific bluefin tuna is near historically low levels, warns a new study. (Photo: Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF)
Less than 4pc of the Pacific bluefin tuna stock is left: study
Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 01:30 (GMT + 9)
The Pacific bluefin tuna population has declined by 96.4 per cent since fishing began more than 200 years ago, according to a new study by the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-Like Species in the North Pacific Ocean (ISC).
The ISC report concludes that the biomass of Pacific bluefin (Thunnus orientalis) “is near historically low levels and experiencing high exploitation rates,” and that “extending the status quo fishing levels is unlikely to improve stock status.”
Amanda Nickson, director of the Pew Environment Group‘s global tuna conservation programme, considers this study conclusive.
“There are a lot of different models for fish stock assessment, and so you’re not always comparing apples to apples. So from our perspective this is the first truly comprehensive assessment that we’ve seen,” she stated, Discovery News reports.
Nickson stressed that the way in which Pacific bluefin tuna has been harvested and managed all these years has devastated the stock.
“Over 90 per cent of the catch is juveniles, caught in nursery and spawning areas,” she explained. “Literally, the zero-to-three-year age class, so they’re being caught on their spawning grounds before they can reproduce, with no catch limit – and gee whiz, we’re at 3.6 per cent of the original population. I wonder why?”
The first catch limit for bluefin was only set in 2012 and only in the eastern range of a species that migrates across the entire Pacific -- and it was exceeded soon after. For things to change, the fishery must be suspended and there must be suitable, scientifically-informed management measures in place, Nickson told.
“The kind of things that would need to be in place in the future would be minimum size limits for catch of Pacific bluefin, and a good strong hard catch limit that covers the entire Pacific basin, along with improved management and enforcement,” Nickson advised.
The assessment pointed out that if the conservation and management steps are implemented and enforced, in combination with additional Japanese voluntary bluefin tuna protection measures, there should be an improvement in the status of the species.
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