Statement by Margaret Spring on NOAA determination that ESA is not warranted for Pacific bluefin tuna

Aug 07, 2017

Conservation & Science
Ocean Policy
Pacific bluefin tuna, courtesy of NOAA
School of Pacific bluefin tuna

“Today’s decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) not to consider listing Pacific bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) does not change the dire status of Pacific bluefin tuna, whose population has declined to just 2.6 percent of unfished levels. Nor does this decision obviate the need for swift and meaningful international action to recover the population to a healthy level.

“NOAA undertook this ESA review because the data and stock assessments document a severe population decline – a decline to a population level that is significantly lower than that of all other bluefin species, as well as all assessed tuna species. While NOAA has determined that the Endangered Species Act is not the vehicle for Pacific bluefin tuna recovery, the unanswered question is: ‘Who is going to act?’

“The plight of Pacific bluefin is a trans-Pacific issue and demands a coordinated, multinational response. New research reinforces that conservation measures taken in only one portion of the Pacific bluefin tuna’s migratory path will have little conservation benefit if not coordinated across its geographic range.

“It is time for much more aggressive action by governments to reduce Pacific bluefin tuna fishing in the Western Pacific Ocean, especially catch of the smallest, youngest fish, so that these fish can live long enough to migrate across the Pacific and ultimately return to the spawning grounds off Japan.

“The scientific evidence is clear. It is time for all Pacific nations to work together to establish a serious, long-term and science-based recovery plan for Pacific bluefin tuna. Global governments will  meet in late August in South Korea specifically to address the recovery of Pacific bluefin tuna. It is time for these nations to live up to their international responsibilities and make meaningful progress to recover this important species.”

Margaret Spring is Chief Conservation Officer for the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

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