Though the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration acknowledges that bluefin tuna populations are 'low,' the Pew Environmental Group believes that governments hold fishing interests over ecosystem interests.
Responding to a meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, Dr. Susan Lieberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group, chose not to mince words.
"ICCAT member governments today adopted measures to protect oceanic whitetip and hammerhead sharks, but were unable to provide real protection for Atlantic bluefin tuna and several other species of sharks whose populations are in jeopardy," Lieberman said in a press release. "Denying critical protection for some of the most threatened and iconic fish in the ocean is inexcusable."
According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "Atlantic bluefin tuna is a highly migratory species that requires high levels of international cooperation for appropriate management and conservation." However, NOAA acknowledges that population "levels are low" and that global "overfishing is occurring."
Tuna population declines are not a new issue, as Japanese-oriented sushi delicacies have now become commonplace in many parts of the world - particularly where economic prosperity has yielded more diverse middle-class tastes and consumption patterns. The declines have been well documented in studies that have measured fishing patterns from the early 1960's through the early 200's.
"Despite sound science to show how threatened these species are -- and all the recent evidence of fraud, laundering and illegal fishing -- Atlantic bluefin tuna once again were denied the protection they desperately need," Lieberman said in the statement. "ICCAT member governments had more than enough information to act decisively. They failed to do so."
The Pew Environment Group is the conservation wing of The Pew Charitable Trusts. The group recommends the suspension of bluefin fishery until adequate management can be put in place and the prohibition of bluefin fishing on their spawning grounds.
"It is now clear that the entire management system of high seas fisheries is flawed and inadequate. The time for letting the fox guard the hen house is over; we call upon governments that care about healthy ocean ecosystems to overhaul this broken system," Lieberman concluded.