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October 8, 2013

Has bluefin tuna recovered?

© OCEANA / Keith Ellenbogen


Bluefin tuna, the iconic Mediterranean species, has for several years served as a dramatic example of how commercial greed can drive a species to the verge of collapse. Its critical situation triggered an international campaign to set reasonable catch limits, and eventually countries agreed to act. But what has become of bluefin tuna since? Has it recovered, as some fishing countries are now stating?

Well, not yet. Last week our campaigners attended SCRS, ICCAT’s scientific committee, and the message is clear: indicators suggest that the stock is increasing, but there is a lot of uncertainty around the results of the last stock assessment, in 2012.

The magnitude and speed of the recovery is uncertain. Scientists say that the models they’re using are flawed and therefore have little confidence in them, so they will spend 2014 working with more recent data and improving their calculations.

Meanwhile, they recommend maintaining catches around current levels to allow the stock to rebuild. This means that we’ll have to wait until 2015 or September 2014 at the earliest to get reliable insight into what’s really going on with bluefin tuna.

So it looks like the patient is leaving intensive care, but before letting it go climb Everest, doctors want to have it under observation for some time. If you ask me, it seems sensible –after all, there is much at stake.