The four companies that make up Mexico’s Pacific Alliance for Sustainable Tuna (PAST) pledged June 16 to stop fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna for the next five years.
Although this appears at first to be a promising development, the situation is more complicated. The alliance represents only four of the six companies that fish commercially for Pacific bluefin in Mexican waters. The two other companies have not made the same pledge. Further, the companies that are not part of the alliance have the capacity to easily catch Mexico’s full quota of 3,000 metric tons. In fact, in just the past few weeks of fishing, they have already caught nearly the limit for all of 2015.
While PAST’s announcement is a step and demonstrates industry’s willingness to act when the government has not made needed quota cuts, the bottom line is that no actual reduction in catch may occur despite the pledge. It simply isn’t enough to reverse the course for Pacific bluefin.
Scientists at the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean have recommended that the full commercial quota should be no higher than 2,750 metric tons a year across the eastern Pacific. If Mexico is really serious about protecting the species, the entire fishing industry and the government must work together to lower the quota to the scientifically recommend limits.
Domestic action by Mexico to lower its catch to below 2,500 metric tons a year is one way to make change. Mexico also could take a leadership role at the upcoming meeting of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, where the country could work with other member nations to institute reduced catch limits and a responsible, long-term rebuilding program for Pacific bluefin.
The need for Mexico to protect Pacific bluefin tuna is urgent. PAST’s pledge shows that change is possible, but the entire fleet must make the commitment. Without the buy-in of industry and the government, the future of Pacific bluefin tuna will remain highly uncertain.
Amanda Nickson directs Pew’s global tuna conservation efforts.