Some respite for bluefins

As of today, the European Commission has banned the fishing of Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) in the Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic. Good for them, though it is a bit late. Stocks of this impressive and long-lived creature have already been decimated globally.

[Update: 21 September 2007] Jennifer Jacquet has more about this, over on Shifting Baselines.

[Update: 2 December 2007] Shifting Baselines has even more on this.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

13 thoughts on “Some respite for bluefins”

  1. Better late than never for bluefins
    European Commission springs to action

    For bluefin tuna to have any chance of survival, we’ve got to make sure proper legislation is in place to protect them and, more importantly, that it’s enforced adequately and effectively.

    With that in mind, it’s a welcome sight to see the European Commission threatening countries like Italy and France with legal action for failing to adhere to fishing quotas and not accurately reporting catches.

    The Commission’s decision, though welcome, is long overdue.

  2. FISHERIES: As bluefin tuna supplies fall, diners eat more

    Sushi diners in China, Europe and the United States are eating more bluefin tuna than ever before despite the fact that consumers in Japan are denied access to the favored fish following years of overfishing.

    Bluefin tuna are fished to the brink of extinction in some areas because they produce the most succulent sashimi-grade flesh, which is eaten raw either as sushi or on its own as sashimi.

    Wholesale tuna prices, up about 20 percent in the past year, are so high at the moment that Japanese restaurant owners say they cannot pass on the full cost to customers.

    For the next four years Japan’s annual fishing quota has been slashed in half for southern bluefin tuna, and its quota for Atlantic bluefin also was cut by almost one quarter.

    But in the United States, which is the second-largest market for fresh tuna, imports have continued to rise this year. That, in turn, is driving up demand and prices. It is also putting added pressure on tuna stocks that were overfished for decades

  3. A three-to-five-years ban is being proposed to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (Iccat).

    The call comes amid deep concerns that the stock may collapse if the level of overfishing continues.

    The European Commission recently closed its bluefin tuna fishery for this year after quota limits had been exceeded.

  4. The call comes amid deep concerns that the stock may collapse if the level of overfishing continues.

    ‘May’ collapse? By definition, the stock will collapse if overfishing continues. That’s what overfishing is.

  5. More bluefin blues
    Commission on bluefin conservation comes up empty again
    Posted by Erik Hoffner at 12:46 PM on 27 Nov 2007

    “The story goes like this: It’s one of the largest, fastest, most gorgeous fish in the sea. Unfortunately, its extraordinary warm-bloodedness makes its muscle delicious to the strange seafood-loving creatures that live on land. The value of bluefin tuna meat goes up due to global demand for sushi and sashimi. As the price goes up, fishing increases. Too many fish are caught and the population collapses. Over the past 50 years, bluefin fisheries have collapsed off Brazil, in the North Sea, and recently off the eastern U.S. and Canada.

    The Commission tasked with managing Atlantic bluefin fisheries is completely broken. The 43-nation International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas met this month in, appropriately enough, Turkey, to discuss the fate of bluefin tuna in the Atlantic. Usually referred to by its acronym ICCAT — pronounced eye-cat — it should be called instead ICCAN’T. Or, keep the acronym and change its name to International Conspiracy to Catch All Tuna.”

  6. What have they and the commissioners learned from the collapses? Apparently, nothing at all. In fact, in their 40-year history, they have never once managed a fish population sustainably or allowed a recovery. All the fish species under their “authority” are at historic lows, with one exception: the North Atlantic Swordfish. But it took a chef’s boycott and a successful lawsuit to arrest and turn around that fish’s plummet.

    The largest remaining Atlantic bluefin population — which breeds in the Mediterranean — is now also endangered with collapse. The quota for fishing in the east half of the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean is more than double what the Commission’s own scientists recommend. Moreover, recent catches have exceeded the limit by more than 50 percent. Actual catches are about 230 percent higher than scientists recommend, meaning that for every one fish that can be sustainably caught, fishermen are killing more than three.

  7. Atlantic bluefin’s woes herald fisheries management crisis

    “The decline of bluefin tuna raises questions about the ability of the international community to properly manage other fish stocks, three-quarters of which are either fully or over-exploited, according to a 2006 assessment by the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization.

    Bluefin tuna is the most popular item in sushi and sashimi. Japan leads the world in tuna consumption, but the rising popularity of sushi in Europe, the United States and China is resulting in much higher prices for the prized fish in Japan’s market, driving suppliers to catch more each year.

    Despite the danger of collapse, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the global body charged with protecting the bluefin, has made an annual practice of ignoring their own scientists’ assessments and instead allowing the fishery to expand…

    From 2000 to 2006, the total value of bluefin caught by U.S. fishers has declined from $19.2 million to $3.4 million today. That trend continues this year as well, with ICCAT data showing U.S. vessels landing about 10 percent of their 2007 quota so far.

    Some estimate that the western Atlantic bluefin fishery has declined by more than 90 percent from historical levels. U.S. and Canadian government officials say they have responded by accepting sharply lower quotas for their own vessels and a moratorium on fishing bluefin in the Gulf of Mexico, which has been in place for 25 years…

    This stands in contrast to European nations active in the east Atlantic and Mediterranean, where national vessels are exceeding their allotted quotas by large margins, in blatant violation of ICCAT mandates. For instance, at the end of August, France was reported to have brought in 10,165 tons of bluefin, well beyond its 5,593 ton quota.

    Spain, in particular, has been unable to reign in its industry. Illegal and unreported bluefin fishing is high there, driven by organized criminal elements that are a growing concern to conservationists. Spain reported a catch of 4,722 tons in 2006, but trade data show a total of 8,964 tons exported from that country last year.”

  8. Bluefin News, Bluefin Blues

    November was the month for Atlantic bluefin tuna. Well, it could have been. The New York Times was optimistic but alas, after a week of debates in Turkey, the international tuna commission, in its brilliance, decided to increase the quota for bluefin by 1000 tonnes.

    The bluefin is revered by most seafaring people, including Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean and promoter of the Sea Ethic. In a guest essay for Grist, Safina explains that ICCAT is “completely broken”

  9. The Naming of Things
    Posted March 15, 2010

    Here’s one small way in which the collapse of biodiversity could be slowed

    By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 15th March 2010

    The names alone should cause anyone whose heart still beats to stop and look again. Blotched woodwax. Pashford pot beetle. Scarce black arches. Mallow skipper. Marsh dagger. Each is a locket in which hundreds of years of history and thousands of years of evolution have been packed. Here nature and culture intersect. All are species that have recently become extinct in England.

    I cannot claim that I’ve been materially damaged by their loss, any more than the razing of the Prado would deprive me of food or shelter. But the global collapse of biodiversity hurts almost beyond endurance. The sense that the world is greying, its wealth of colour and surprise and wonder fading, is so painful that I can scarcely bear to write about it. Human welfare, as measured by gross domestic product, is doubtless enhanced by the processes which drive extinction. Human welfare, as measured by the heart and the senses, is diminished. We have no use for most of the world’s natural exuberance; it cannot be commodified or reproduced. Biodiversity does not belong to us: that is why it is worth preserving.

    In Doha today, governments are engaged in their annual festival of frustration: the endless arguments over the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. They are struggling against what often looks like an inexorable assault by technology, economic growth and sheer bloody idiocy. The latter is exemplified by the battle over the Atlantic bluefin tuna. Many governments want to ban the trade in this species for several years, but Japan is resisting furiously. Whether or not a ban is imposed, the effect on Japanese industry will be roughly the same, as the species is likely to become commercially extinct next year if current fishing levels continue. But the government would prefer one more year of raw exploitation to indefinite supplies in the future. There is no reasoning with this madness.

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