NADI, Fiji—The Pacific bluefin tuna has been overfished for decades and has seen population declines of 97 percent, but a management proposal to be considered by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) would not improve the status quo and must be rejected by member governments, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The WCPFC, which oversees the tuna fisheries of the western Pacific Ocean, meets here Dec. 5-9 to discuss management measures for Pacific bluefin. Management of the stock has long been directed by the Northern Committee, a WCPFC subcommittee; in past years, the committee’s recommendations have been approved by the full Commission with little review or discussion, much to the detriment of Pacific bluefin.
Despite science indicating the endangered state of the species, the Northern Committee recommended no further steps at its September meeting to address the state of Pacific bluefin. In fact, it proposed weakening existing conservation measures by giving Japan and South Korea leeway to increase their fishing efforts on adult fish, which must have a chance to reproduce in order to rebuild the species. This proposal was made without analysis of its effects, and with Japan already catching the majority of Pacific bluefin, the additional catch of adults could lead to further depletion of the population.
In response to managers’ lack of action, Pew has called for a two-year moratorium on commercial fishing of Pacific bluefin tuna—which, if approved, would immediately end overfishing and give the species a chance to recover.
Amanda Nickson, who directs Pew’s global tuna conservation campaign, issued the following statement on why the WCPFC should reject its current proposal:
“Overfishing has depleted the population of Pacific bluefin tuna to less than 3 percent of its historic size. The continued lack of action on catch reduction means that recovery of this population is decades away at best, a situation that is bad for Japanese fishermen as well as consumers.
“Officials must act to reduce fishing of this severely threatened species. If the current arrangement continues, all members of the WCPFC are essentially sanctioning the continued overfishing and depletion of an already decimated population. It is imperative that the committee begin presenting science-based, precautionary recommendations to the Commission to make sure that Pacific bluefin can recover. According to the WCPFC Convention, management measures must ensure that tuna populations are maintained at healthy, sustainable levels. But this year’s recommendation from the Northern Committee would not achieve this mandate.
“Now is the time for countries that have previously expressed disappointment with the Pacific bluefin situation to prove that the WCPFC is willing to protect this severely threatened species. Member countries of the Northern Committee, including Japan, have delayed further action; with the population so low, this cannot continue. Committee members must ensure that the mandate of sustainable fishery management agreed to by all members is taken seriously.
“The lack of action by the WCPFC Northern Committee makes a two-year commercial fishing moratorium increasingly important. If such a moratorium cannot be agreed to, international trade regulations may be the only approach that can save Pacific bluefin.”
Further information about Pacific bluefin tuna and Pew’s call for a commercial fishing moratorium can be found at pewtrusts.org/savepacificbluefin.
The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Learn more at pewtrusts.org.