Dr. Susan Lieberman, director of International Policy for the Pew Environment Group, released the following statement in response to the first-ever global species assessment of tuna and billfish (swordfish, sailfish and marlin):
“Pew welcomes this new and much needed global assessment of commercially and ecologically important species of tuna, swordfish and marlin. The analysis by the world's top scientific experts for these species evaluates the risk of extinction and highlights the combined impacts of a wide range of threats including overfishing, illegal fishing, habitat loss and pollution.
“These results are yet another warning sign that some species of tunas are dangerously over-exploited and others may be heading in that direction. The study reinforces what marine conservationists have known for decades—that there are negative consequences to poor fisheries management. Around the world, tuna stocks are in serious decline—with too many boats chasing too few fish, along with widespread illegal fishing in several ocean areas.
“The study concludes that larger tuna species (bluefin and bigeye), which are longer lived, slower to reproduce and economically more valuable, meet the IUCN criteria to be categorized as ‘threatened.'
“The release of this assessment is timely. Tunas are highly migratory fish, swimming across ocean basins and between the waters of various countries during their lifetimes. Conserving them requires regional and global cooperation. The Pew Environment Group is urging countries with tuna-rich waters and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) to follow precautionary science and set sound and enforceable catch limits for these fish, to ensure that they do not become endangered and enable their full recovery.
“The IUCN Red List assessment reinforces that it is time for governments to live up to their responsibilities. Countries should act to rebuild global tuna stocks, using the best available science to make decisions that will help to ensure the conservation of the species, as well as those whose livelihoods depend on healthy fisheries.”
Background: From July 12 – 14 in La Jolla, Calif., all five tuna RFMOs will discuss coordinated management efforts for the fishing of tunas and species affected by tuna fishing. Collectively, these five organizations manage tuna fisheries that extend across 91 percent of the world's ocean surface, 325 million square kilometres. Thousands of vessels have operated in these ocean areas and are responsible for removing more than four million metric tonnes of tuna annually.