Bluefin on edge of collapse

The opening of the key WCPFC annual meeting in Fiji Monday. Photo: Giff Johnson
The opening of the key WCPFC annual meeting in Fiji Monday. Photo: Giff Johnson

The Pacific bluefin tuna has been overfished for decades and has seen population declines of 97 percent, but a management proposal to be considered by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) this week would not improve the status quo and should be rejected by member governments, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The WCPFC, which oversees the tuna fisheries of the western Pacific Ocean, is meeting in Fiji this week through Friday to discuss management measures for Pacific bluefin. Management of the stock has long been directed by the Northern Committee, a WCPFC subcommittee. In past years, the committee’s recommendations have been approved by the full Commission with little review or discussion, much to the detriment of Pacific bluefin, say officials from Pew, a US-based non-government group that promotes sustainable fishing practices worldwide.

Despite science indicating the endangered state of the species, the Northern Committee recommended no further steps at its September meeting to address the state of Pacific bluefin. In fact, it proposed weakening existing conservation measures by giving Japan and South Korea leeway to increase their fishing efforts on adult fish, which must have a chance to reproduce in order to rebuild the species. This proposal was made without analysis of its effects, and with Japan already catching the majority of Pacific bluefin, the additional catch of adults could lead to further depletion of the population.

Read more of this article in the December 9 issue of the Marshall Islands Journal.