Bluefin tuna have a lot of admirers. Marine biologists are intrigued by their size and speed, they’re a noteworthy source of revenue for many fishermen, and many sushi lovers are willing to spend a little more for their favorite tuna roll. In fact, this fish is so important to so many, that it warrants a five-day meeting of the world’s five biggest tuna fisheries — accounting for 77 countries and regions.
The meeting is taking place in Japan, the country that consumes more than half the world’s bluefin tuna catch. But Japan isn’t solely to blame (no pun intended) for the declining populations.
Closer to home, in the Gulf of Mexico, bluefin tuna are being caught as bycatch primarily on longlining boats that are legally fishing for yellowfin tuna. This area is the only place in the western Atlantic Ocean where bluefins spawn, making it of the utmost importance for ensuring healthy populations. Oceana and other NGO’s are working to get the area closed to longliners during the spawning season. Blue Ocean Institute has gone so far as to file a lawsuit to that effect, which Oceana heartily endorses.
Excessive consumption coupled with wasted catch are driving bluefin and other tuna populations to the brink of irreversible collapse. Conservationists hope that this week’s meeting will result in better management of worldwide tuna stocks. Stay tuned.