Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tuna Populations: new ICCAT assessment and new Hawaiian venture

In September, I posted information on the status of the Bluefin Tuna and the efforts by Monaco to have this highly depleted fish listed by CITES as endangered, thereby initiating a commercial ban on the species. Unfortunately, the EU was not providing much support but Monaco was still moving ahead with the request.

Many countries turn to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) for guidance regarding commercial limits but their quotas have often fallen short of levels recommended by many research groups, showing a bias towards the commercial tuna fishing industry. But that may be changing.

An analysis by ICCAT's own advisers reports that stocks of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna are probably less than 15% of their original size.

According to an article in the online BBC News, "
For a number of years, ICCAT has set quotas higher than scientists' recommendations. The pressure this puts on stocks has been compounded by illegal fishing for this valuable species, which according to some estimates adds 30% to the official quota. Atlantic bluefin tuna are mainly caught from countries around the Mediterranean Sea, but most of the meat is consumed in Asia, particularly Japan. Japan has previously argued that commercial fish species should be controlled by bodies like ICCAT rather than CITES. 'The right thing would be to impose a zero quota,' said Sue Lieberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group."

Read the BBC news article.

And in a related development, Hawaii Oceanic Technology has received permission to establish the first Bigeye Tuna farm near the big island of Hawaii. The company intends to breed juvenile or tuna "fry" in a lab then transfer them to large pens three miles offshore.

By feeding the tuna only sustainable feeder fish species, resisting the use of antibiotics, and placing the tuna pens in water that is over a thousand feet deep, they hope to avoid some of the environmental concerns that have been raised by some ocean conservation groups about this operation and others worldwide.

It is important that 1.) we realize that traditional commercial tuna fishing is no longer a viable option as tuna populations are being drastically depleted worldwide, and 2.) raising tuna in an aquafarming operation is probably our best bet. But serious issues regarding ocean pollution and disease must be addressed if it is to have a viable future.

Read the MNN/AP article.

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