Pacific bluefin tuna. (Photo Credit: aes256-CC BY-SA 2.5)
Pacific bluefin tuna deemed in danger
Monday, May 19, 2014, 02:50 (GMT + 9)
The Centre for Biological Diversity filed a legal petition urging the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA) to prohibit fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna, which is reported to have suffered a 96 per cent decline since large-scale fishing began.
According to the Centre, news of the population’s historic low triggered a requirement for the Pacific Fishery Management Council to recommend new regulations for managing Pacific bluefin tuna but the council declined to take any action to help the species.
“Despite the bluefin tuna’s great speed and deep-diving, it can’t escape the world’s insatiable appetite for sushi,” highlighted Centre Attorney Catherine Kilduff.
And she added: “Saving Pacific bluefin tuna requires drastic action at all levels, starting by protecting them in the feeding grounds off California and Mexico.”
The Centre Attorney explained that the petition calls for the NOAA to add Pacific bluefin tuna to a list of imperiled species that must be released immediately if caught, including great white sharks and other fish vulnerable to steep declines from fishing.
The entity representative stated that while the US sport fishery still catches bluefin tuna, often by traveling to Mexico’s waters, the once vibrant US commercial fishery for Pacific bluefin tuna is a relic, with only sporadic catches in recent decades. Most of the bluefin tuna caught along the West Coast are juvenile specimens.
“The days of seeing 9-foot bluefin tuna in the Pacific are sadly few and far between. US fishery managers shouldn’t sit idly by while some of our ocean’s most magnificent fish get picked off before adulthood,” claimed Kilduff.
The attorney considers that failing to take every action possible to prevent the extinction of Pacific bluefin tuna would be a tragic mistake.
Pacific bluefin tuna spawn in the western Pacific, near Japan, and some migrate to the California current as juvenile specimens to feed on anchovy, herring and red crab.
Once in the eastern Pacific Ocean, the bluefin tuna stay for a few years before going back to spawn off Japan’s waters. It is unknown what percentage of the population makes the migration across the ocean to the US West Coast as juvenile specimens or returns after spawning as large, mature adults.
The largest recent reported catch of giant bluefin tuna in the eastern Pacific was made in 1988, when commercial nets caught an estimated 987 adult bluefin tuna off Southern California, including one that broke California records at more than 1,000 pounds and nearly 9 feet in length. Ninety per cent of the worldwide catch of Pacific bluefin tuna now is less than 2 years old and under 3 feet long.
In view of this fact and as one of the protective measures, the Bluefin Brigade, founded by the Centre for Biological Diversity in 2010, has organized a pledge not to eat bluefin tuna and to boycott restaurants that advertise it on their menu.
Bluefin Brigade reported in its website that in January 2013 scientists released an assessment that estimated a 96.4 percent decline of Pacific bluefin tuna from unfished levels. Catch limits were implemented for the first time in the eastern Pacific Ocean in 2012, but they're not enough to protect bluefin.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists both the Atlantic and the southern bluefin tuna as endangered or critically endangered on its “Red List” of imperiled species.
Bluefin Brigade considers that the sushi market keeps prices for tuna high and encourages illegal and unreported fishing.