Recent history of Atlantic bluefin tuna

Rising demand for bluefin tuna in the 1980s led to overfishing and by the 1990s, it is estimated as much as 50,000 to 61,000 tonnes of bluefin tuna per year were caught in the East Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea – so many that conservation experts said the species was at risk of extinction.

Path to recovery

In recent years, much has been done to protect bluefin tuna stocks in the East Atlantic and help populations to recover from overfishing. Below is more detail about the steps that have been taken by an international community of fishers, conservation bodies and scientists. 

1980s

Tuna gains popularity around the world.

1990s

Peak of overfishing

2005 - 2007

NGOs campaign to end overfishing of bluefin tuna

2007, implementation of 15 year recovery plan begins:

  • the recovery plan reduced the permitted catch and quotas, limited fishing seasons according to gear and vessel size and raised the minimum size for caught tuna from 10kg to 30kg. The plan also limited the catch from recreational vessels, introduced mandatory observer coverage on vessels larger than 15m and prohibited the transfer of quotas, transhipment and the use of aircraft to detect tuna schools

2008

ICCAT strengthens measures in recovery plan

2009

Permitted catch decreased further

  • between 2009 and 2013 the capacity and permitted catch decreased following scientific advice and advances, such as improved identification of bluefin tuna spawning grounds

2010 - 2014

Bluefin tuna stocks show improvement

2015

Bluefin tuna reclassified as 'near threatened' from 'endangered'

2017

Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna stock no longer overfished

2018

First bluefin tuna fisheries enter into MSC assessment

2019

Stock management shifts to 'multi-year management'

2020

First bluefin tuna fishery gets the go-ahead for MSC certification

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