Overfishing pushes tuna stocks to the brink: experts

Sep 08, 2012
Indonesia workers load tuna from a fishing boat onto a truck at Benoa fishing port in Denpasar in July 2012. Global tuna stocks are fast reaching the limits of fishing sustainability, decimated by an absence of comprehensive, science-based catch limits, conservation experts warned Saturday.

Global tuna stocks are fast reaching the limits of fishing sustainability, decimated by an absence of comprehensive, science-based catch limits, conservation experts warned Saturday.

Five of the world's eight tuna are already classified as threatened or nearly threatened with extinction, according to the Red List of Threatened Species compiled by the International Union for (IUCN).

At the IUCN's World Conservation Congress currently underway in South Korea's southern Jeju Island, experts said partial quotas currently in place were inadequate and uninformed.

"The problem is, there is lack of science-based catch limits to ensure effective management and conservation," said Amanda Nickson, Director of Global Tuna Conservation at the Pew .

The five Regional Organisations (RFMOs) that manage the global tuna do have some measures in place, including restricting the catch of certain species to the amount caught in a previously defined year.

They also operate "input controls" that, among other things, limit the number of fishing vessels, but Nickson argued these were ineffective as they simply provided an incentive to develop more effective fishing methods.

While acknowledging that scientific data on was "imperfect", Nickson said the UN Agreement specifically provided for the setting of catch limits if the evidence in favour was compelling enough.

"There is sufficient science available to set precautionary limits," Nickson said.

"If we wait five, 10 years for the science to be perfect, in the case of some species we may not have anything left to manage," she added.

The Atlantic bluefin species, which can live to 40 years old and grow to more than four metres (13 feet) long, is in the gravest danger of disappearing with stocks estimated in some areas to have halved over four decades.

It is so highly prized by sushi-loving Japanese that a 269-kilogram (592-pound) fish went for a record 56.49 million yen ($737,000 at the time) in January auctions.

"The message is that some tuna species are in bad shape," said Bruce Collette, chair of the IUCN Tuna and Billfish Specialist Group.

"Long living and high value tunas are threatened by over exploitation and under regulation by the regional agencies," Collette warned.

The global tuna industry is an economic juggernaut, with fishing in the Pacific Ocean alone—accounting for 65 percent of the global commercial catch—worth around $5.5 billion a year.

Toshio Katsukawa, a fisheries expert from Mie University in Japan, said only urgent international cooperation could safeguard the future of the Pacific bluefin .

"Immediate action is necessary" because the risk of commercial extinction is immediate, Katsukawa said.

Explore further: Disquieting times for Malaysia's 'fish listener'

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Tuna nearly fished to extinction

Sep 15, 2005

Australian officials say one of that nation's most valuable fish -- the southern bluefin tuna -- is facing extinction.

Greenpeace takes on tuna fishing

Apr 23, 2008

Greenpeace says it confronted a U.S. tuna boat in the South Pacific this week as part of an effort to fight overfishing by commercial fishing fleets.

Increased protection urgently needed for tunas

Jul 07, 2011

For the first time, all species of scombrids (tunas, bonitos, mackerels and Spanish mackerels) and billfishes (swordfish and marlins) have been assessed for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Of the 61 known species, ...

Far more bluefin sold than reported caught: report

Oct 18, 2011

More than twice as many tonnes of Atlantic bluefin tuna were sold last year compared with official catch records for this threatened species, according to a report released on Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Manatees could lose their endangered species status

11 hours ago

About 2,500 manatees have perished in Florida over the last four years, heightening tension between conservationists and property owners as federal officials prepare to decide whether to down-list the creature to threatened ...

Bats versus wind turbines

18 hours ago

Wind turbines are responsible for the death of numerous bats. In a recent study, scientists determined the origin of these animals: they do not only come from local areas but many had been already on a long ...

User comments : 10

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

LostPug
3 / 5 (4) Sep 08, 2012
too many people, not enough fish.
ValeriaT
5 / 5 (2) Sep 08, 2012
It's not so simple - the world population did rise from 5.3 billions in 1990 to 7 billions at 2012, but the atlantic tuna stocks dropped by 85 percent.
cdt
5 / 5 (2) Sep 09, 2012
Excessive greed without any controls just doesn't lend itself to sustainability. Sometimes we find out early enough to keep the greed in check, and sometimes we don't.
VendicarD
3.5 / 5 (4) Sep 09, 2012
Clearly this is proof that all of the worlds water must be sold to a small number of global corporations so that they may be patrolled by corporate gun ships and it's content sold to the highest bidder.

210
1 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2012
Clearly this is proof that all of the worlds water must be sold to a small number of global corporations so that they may be patrolled by corporate gun ships and it's content sold to the highest bidder.


Vendi - where is the Smiley Face after your post...so we all know you are kidding and not crazy...and NO...you are not Crazy....you cant be...YOU don't come to any of the meetings any more!

word-to-ya-muthas!
Irukanji
3 / 5 (2) Sep 09, 2012
Considering there is more canned tuna than alive tuna, I think banning the production of canned tuna for 10 years would be a step in the right direction.
alfie_null
5 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2012
At those prices, it's hard to imagine success with regulation. Enforcement can never be 100 percent effective. And the price will continue to increase, nonlinearly, as tuna becomes more rare.

For researchers developing techniques to grow cloned meat: this might be an attractive target. Ditto for anyone trying to figure out a way to farm tuna, as unlikely as that sounds.
CapitalismPrevails
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2012
Clearly this is proof that all of the worlds water must be sold to a small number of global corporations so that they may be patrolled by corporate gun ships and it's content sold to the highest bidder.

I'm picking up your sarcasm VD but why not privatize the oceans in some way? Why not change it from public territory to private territory? Has that been ever tried? Nope, private property just gets incrementally public over time and therefor the original owners feel less accountable to it, and why should they? If the oceans were privatized, necessity would be the mother of invention. Owners would want a consistent annual crop to harvest. They would probably develop fish farms.
210
1 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2012
At those prices, it's hard to imagine success with regulation. Enforcement can never be 100 percent effective. And the price will continue to increase, nonlinearly, as tuna becomes more rare.

For researchers developing techniques to grow cloned meat: this might be an attractive target. Ditto for anyone trying to figure out a way to farm tuna, as unlikely as that sounds.

Perhaps...land based farming tanks....easily policed, using uncommitted land...even deserts....bury the tanks in the ground, to help protect them from accidents cover them with proper filtering based on fish species, etc, etc, etc and recycle/use all waste products.....hummm, just a thought...I like your idea.

word-to-ya-muthas
baudrunner
not rated yet Sep 09, 2012
Australians farm tuna in their southern ocean. Actually, they herd juvenile fish into huge pens and then feed them until they grow to marketable size. So, they are still taking bounty from the sea, and the ethics are questionable.

The days of the 4,000 pound North Atlantic Bluefin tuna are gone. The largest tuna now fished in the Atlantic are around 800 pounders. The Yellowfin tuna is practically extinct in the Atlantic.

It should be noted that most species of tuna, and most of the tunny family, can be considered to be warm-blooded, as they have an internal temperature regulating mechanism, unlike most other common fishes.