Pacific countries fail to adopt meaningful new measures to conserve Pacific bluefin tuna

Monterey Bay Aquarium calls for international oversight and action to recover the species

Sep 02, 2016

Aquarium News
Conservation & Science
Ocean Policy

Statement from Margaret Spring, Vice President of Conservation and Science, and Chief Conservation Officer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium,  on the conclusion of the 12th WCPFC Northern Committee meeting in Fukuoka, Japan

Margaret Spring, VP Conservation & Science (c) Monterey Bay Aquarium

“Despite continued warnings from scientists that the adult population of Pacific bluefin tuna is at only 2.6% of historic levels, this week’s international negotiations among Pacific fishing nations did not result in any new catch restrictions or meaningful conservation measures,” said Margaret Spring, Vice President of Conservation and Science and Chief Conservation Officer at Monterey Bay Aquarium. “It is time for concrete and science-based management actions to recover this stock to sustainable levels. Regional fishery management organizations must fulfill their responsibility to manage these stocks in accordance with scientific advice and international obligations. The future of Pacific bluefin tuna, and other jointly managed species, depends on it.”

Pacific bluefin tuna (c) Monterey Bay Aquarium

Pacific nations convened this week (August 29-September 2) at the 12th meeting of the Northern Committee—a subset of Pacific nations that jointly manages international fisheries in the North Pacific Ocean. These Pacific nations are also members of the larger Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), which manages the largest tuna fisheries in the Western Pacific Ocean.  This year’s Northern Committee meeting was unique because it included a first-ever joint working group meeting with Eastern Pacific Nations that are part of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC). The joint working group is tasked with creating long-term management plans to recover Pacific bluefin tuna populations.

“I commend the leadership of the United States for its proposals to recover and maintain Pacific bluefin tuna at sustainable levels,” Spring said, “but the lack of progress indicates that all nations must work harder – together – to identify effective and scientifically credible solutions. Nations acknowledged the severely depleted state of Pacific bluefin tuna, but they were only able to agree to a step-by-step approach to rebuilding the population. As a result, they have postponed a critical decision on the 2030 science-based recovery goal until the next meeting of the Northern Committee in 2017. This falls far short of what is needed to recover Pacific bluefin tuna.

“In addition, there were no additional catch reductions in the Western Pacific, where over 80% of Pacific bluefin tuna are caught, and no action to protect these fish in their spawning and nursery grounds.  As a result, fishermen will continue to catch spawning adults and baby bluefin that must be protected in order to recover the population."

“Even more concerning, Pacific nations adopted a risky proposal that will allow tuna-fishing nations to transfer catch quotas and potentially increase the catch of large fish without first understanding how this will impact the overall population. In light of this decision, it’s more imperative than ever to carefully monitor and track landings of Pacific bluefin tuna.  We strongly urge nations to develop a catch documentation protocol quickly to ensure transparency and traceability in this extremely valuable fishery.”

“Continued overfishing on such a depleted population is irresponsible and inconsistent with international obligations. Pacific nations must step up to manage this vital species in a sustainable, science-based manner. Commitments to reduce overfishing within a specific timeframe, and to create a meaningful long-term management framework, are long overdue. These approaches are fundamental if the international community intends to ensure the future viability of Pacific bluefin tuna.”

“It is truly unfortunate that the Northern Committee did not take the needed action in Fukuoka. All nations that are party to the IATTC and WCPFC now have both the opportunity – and the responsibility –to redress this failure at their upcoming meetings in October and December, respectively. Recovery of Pacific bluefin tuna requires strong oversight and action by all Pacific nations. Only by working together can we assure compliance with international obligations, maintain the international credibility of the regional fishery management organizations, and ensure the recovery of Pacific bluefin tuna to sustainable levels.”

“Earlier this year at the Bluefin Futures Symposium, participants began a constructive dialogue as they explored new ways to achieve the recovery of bluefin tunas—particularly through innovative approaches to research and management. Now is the time for nations to revisit those discussions and rekindle the spirit of collaboration. We stand ready to support a better path forward for Pacific bluefin tuna, grounded in the best available science.”


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The mission of the nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the ocean.