Biodiversity: Crucial meeting for bluefin tuna conservation

Bluefin tuna swarming in the Atlantic. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Environmental groups urge strict catch limits

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — This week’s meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna could be crucial for some species, as the group, gathering in Morocco, will decide on on  future bluefin tuna catch limits.

Bluefin tuna are already under extreme pressure from overfishing, and some countries — notably Spain — are pushing for higher, unsustainable catch limits. Conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, are calling on the delegates to put a cap on bluefin tuna fishing to preserve and restore the species in the Atlantic Basin.

“The fate of bluefin tuna depends on an international negotiation decided almost entirely by fishermen,” said attorney Catherine Kilduff. “For the sake of not repeating the mistakes of a long history of mismanagement, we urge votes that will cap bluefin tuna fishing at current levels.”


The center launched a nationwide boycott of bluefin tuna after the last international meeting in 2010. It also sought protections for bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in crucial spawning grounds. In response, the U.S. government listed Atlantic bluefin tuna as a species of concern, putting them on a watchlist that gives the fish no new protections.

The most recent scientific reports recommend not increasing the catch above 2010 levels. Although the commission is responsible for tunas other than bluefin, the economic potential of bluefin, paired with the high-value tuna’s alarming history of being fished to excess, makes it a priority for next week’s meeting. A single can of bluefin tuna can sell for $50.

“While the new population estimates show improvement for bluefin in the Mediterranean, that improvement isn’t big enough to ensure this tuna can weather the storm of overfishing, pollution and climate change,” Kilduff said. “Sure, any recovery is better than none for these precious fish, but the lure of the dollar has started the international feeding frenzy back up.”

Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) are capable of swimming more than 55 mph; they include two genetically distinct populations, one that spawns in the Mediterranean (the “eastern Atlantic” stock) and a much smaller population that spawns in the Gulf of Mexico (the “western Atlantic” stock). Bluefin tuna are threatened by overfishing, capture for tuna ranches, and changing ocean and climate conditions.

More than 40,000 people have joined the Center’s bluefin boycott campaign and pledged not to eat at restaurants serving bluefin tuna; dozens of chefs and owners of seafood and sushi restaurants have pledged not to sell bluefin. For more information about the Center’s campaign to save the Atlantic bluefin tuna, visit

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