Atlantic bluefin tuna should be banned internationally: ICCAT scientists

Jeremy Hance
October 29, 2009

Scientists with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) have said in a new report that a global ban on Atlantic bluefin tuna fishing is justified. ICCAT meets in November to decide if they will follow their scientist's recommendations.

ICCAT scientists estimated that the Atlantic bluefin tuna's spawning biomass is less than 15 percent of its original stock before industrial fishing. The decline is steep enough for the tuna to fall under Appendix 1 of Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). The scientists also stated that a total suspension of fishing is the only way for the species to no longer meet Appendix 1 of CITES in ten years time.

The Atlantic bluefin tuna is a large predatory fish. Photo by: NOAA.
Environmental groups like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Greenpeace have applauded the conclusions reached by scientists.

"The ICCAT scientists have made formal what we have been saying all along – that Atlantic bluefin tuna is balancing precariously on the edge of collapse, and only drastic measures can now ensure this endangered species gets a fighting chance of recovery," said Sebastian Losada, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace International. "The extent of the failure by ICCAT members to act responsibly and preserve our marine environment can no longer be ignored. Atlantic bluefin tuna has been subject to decades of massive overfishing and overexploitation and time is running out to save this species."

ICCAT has in the past ignored its scientist's recommendations by setting a far larger quota than researchers recommended, sometimes even doubling the scientifically-recommended quota.

If ICCAT calls for a total ban on fishing, the decision then goes to CITES, which meets in March 2010.

Classified at Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, Atlantic bluefin tuna is primarily sold in Japan for premium sushi. It is a lucrative business: estimated at 7.2 billion US dollars a year. A single fish can sometimes sell for over 100,000 US dollars at the Tokyo Market.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (October 29, 2009).

Atlantic bluefin tuna should be banned internationally: ICCAT scientists.