Overfishing Of The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna



Bluefin tuna—one of the most popular fish shown at the top of many sushi menus—is on a decline because of  overfishing. Fishery managers refused to listen to scientists regarding the crisis they will have on bluefin tuna if they overfish. The result was an even bigger decline to tuna than expected with no economical boost (Galland). The population for Pacific Bluefin tuna is at 1.4 million “Ear Bones Allow Researchers to Track Movement of Pacific Bluefin Tuna” and Atlantic Bluefin tuna’s population has dropped to 41,000 and is still dropping at a considerable rate. The reason for bluefin tuna’s high demand is because of the superior fat content it has while also being huge going up to 1,400 pounds (Snyder). The extreme prices that companies would fork over for bluefin tuna also attracts more fishermen to catch as much as possible. Bluefin tuna is experiencing a huge decline caused by overfishing; therefore, all countries involved in its fishing need to regulate the bluefin tuna industry before it is too late. 

The quota for bluefin tuna that would stop the decline is said to be at 1,000 metric tons. Currently the quota is 2.35x the recommended amount for stopping. In the data preparatory meeting conducted by ICCAT’s scientists in March 2017, they decided to use 10 CPUE (Catch Per Unit Effort) and two survey indices including a new Gulf of St. Lawrence acoustic survey. The result of it showed that the 2,350 metric ton quota would cause an even greater decline to the western bluefin population (Galland). The solution is to reduce the limit of bluefin tuna over the coming years instead of all at once. Making the quota go from 2,350 metric tons to 1,000 metric tons in one year would cause a disparity in the supply and demand. Thus, slowly lowering the quota would be the safest option. By implementing this it would cause the decline to plateau. Lowering the quota by itself is not feasible to get bluefin tuna fishing sustainable however.

The copious amount of fishing is not the only problem, however; fishermen also suffer from the problem of killing many of their own fish. The cause of this problem is surface longlines. They can stretch on average 30 miles and have 800 baited hooks. These longlines harm large numbers of the different types of fish because of their size restrictions. This includes protected species like Bluefin tuna and loggerhead sea turtles (“Creative Ways to Protect Atlantic Bluefin Tuna”). By modifying the hooks that longlines to become weaker and more flexible, it would allow unwanted species to unhook themselves while also staying strong enough to catch their targeted fish. When tested, “ICES Journal of Marine Science” reported the data showed less caught fish overall but it reduced the amount of unwanted fish (Anderson). Another benefit is that the hook would have a higher surface area causing it to not attach to the gut, which would normally kill fish. Over 50% of swordfish has been discarded because of this leaving 77% of those swordfish dead. By lowering the quota and safer fishing equipment, bluefin tuna fishing would become sustainable. 

Naturally, fishermen argue that bluefin tuna are too valuable to their livelihoods to give up or even cut back on their fishing of these fish. Amanda Nickson, Director of the International Fisheries, stated “All told, the value of tuna is greater than the gross domestic product of at least 108 countries… Given the economic gains for coastal economies connected to the commercial industry, tuna is an asset that every government should make every effort to protect.”. Many coastal communities rely on this money to survive. However, according to the Pew Research Center, bluefin tuna only garners profits of $2 billion to $2.5 billion per year out of the $42.2 billion all tuna species make worldwide. The surprisingly low value of bluefin tuna is caused by the low quantity of bluefins (“Tuna Contributes at Least $42.2 Billion Annually to Global Economy”). Coastal communities must realize that allowing the population of bluefin tuna to regrow will cause an economical increase to their value. The result of that will not only save bluefin tuna from their demise, but fishermen will be able to keep the profit of bluefin tuna in their pockets. All parts of the chain for the bluefin tuna industry must work together to stop the decline to save the bluefins