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article imageTwo-year moratorium needed to protect bluefin tuna populations

By Karen Graham     Jul 22, 2016 in Environment
An environmental group is warning that Pacific bluefin tuna could become extinct unless a two-year ban on commercial fishing is enacted.
The western and central Pacific is home to the world's largest tuna fishery, with a market value in excess of $40 billion. While most of the tuna we find in cans is skipjack tuna, the most highly valued tuna is the bluefin. Bluefin alone generate at least $2 billion to $2.5 billion a year to the global marketplace.
Bluefin tuna can live up to 40 years in the wild, and are primarily fished by fleets from Japan, Mexico and the United States. Their fatty, deep red meat is well-suited for sashimi and sushi, and the worldwide consumption has pushed the species to the brink of extinction.
It is interesting that until the 1950s, the fatty belly meat of bluefin tuna was considered nothing more than cat food. It took a Japanese marketing campaign to make the fish popular, and then with the advent of the Internet, sushi and sashimi became a global gourmet finger food.
You can now order sushi or sashimi in your favorite Japanese restaurant, or if you want to eat at home, order online. For the more adventuresome, there are literally thousands of websites that can talk you through any of a number of recipes you can make yourself.
At a recent meeting in Japan, the Pew Charitable Trusts Global Tuna Conservation program released an assessment of the current bluefin tuna population. The report showed that the population is at just 2.6 percent of its historic size, while fishing mortality remains up to three times higher than is sustainable.
The report also pointed out that the two major commercial fishing bodies, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, which met this month in California, and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which meets in December in Fiji, have both failed for several years to agree on a Pacific-wide recovery plan for the bluefin tuna.
Actually, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission is holding an unprecedented October meeting because they could not come to a consensus on extending fishing closure for Bigeye and Yellowfin tuna to a total of 82 days in order to ensure sustainable fisheries or on the conservation of the bluefin tuna.
Based on projections from the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean, the current catch limits have a less than one percent chance of rebuilding the bluefin population over the next 20 years.
Amanda Nickson, program director for Pew's Tuna Conservation program says, "It is not acceptable to just allow such an extraordinarily valuable fishery and fish to end up in this situation. It is these governments' responsibilities, as the custodians of this fishery to actually take action."
As long as the fishing industry refuses to take action, it really is the responsibility of the governmental bodies to step in and correct the situation, otherwise, the bluefin population will continue on its downward spiral.
Pew Charitable Trusts also has an online petition that is asking the NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION (NOAA) to take action in supporting a two-year moratorium on fishing the threatened Pacific bluefin tuna.
More about Bluefin tuna, Pew Charitable Trusts, twoyear moratorium, commercial fishing, Extinction
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