Fishing industry exceeds Atlantic bluefin quota by 141 percent

Jeremy Hance
October 18, 2011

In 2010 the fishing industry exceeded its quota of eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) by 141 percent, according to a new analysis by Pew Environment Group. The analysis depends on official data, thereby leaving out the massive black market on Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Decades of overfishing has pushed the Atlantic bluefin onto the Critically Endangered list, as kept by the IUCN Red List; yet management of the fish by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) has been overrun with corruption and lackluster regulations. According to Pew, new measures adopted by ICCAT—including a lowered quota and a paper documentation system—have clearly not been enough to keep the fishing industry from steamrolling over the 2010 quota.

The environmental group suggests ICCAT should drop paper documentation for electronic.

"An electronic system would provide more-accurate information that can be easily shared and cross-checked instantly. Such a program should also include a physical bar code for each bluefin, which could be easily administered and not be cost prohibitive. This would allow the fish to be tracked from sea to plate," explains Lee Crockett, director of Atlantic bluefin tuna conservation at Pew, in a press release.

In 2009, scientists with ICCAT recommended a total moratorium on Atlantic bluefin fishing, given the species biomass has dropped to less than 15 percent of its historical biomass before industrial fishing. However, instead of heeding the recommendations of ICCAT researchers, the group set a quota of 13,500 tons. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) also failed to protect Atlantic bluefin in 2010 after heavy lobbying by Japan.

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 18, 2011).

Fishing industry exceeds Atlantic bluefin quota by 141 percent.