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.
Tuna gains popularity around the world.
Peak of overfishing
- in 1996, an estimated 50,000 to 61,000 tonnes of bluefin tuna caught annually in the East Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea
- in 1998, the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), a regional fisheries management organisation with 48 member states, established the first total allowable catch (TAC) for bluefin tuna at 30,000 - 33,000 tonnes per year.
- the permitted catch was not complied with and it was estimated that over 50,000 tonnes were caught annually between 1998 and 2008
2005 - 2007
NGOs campaign to end overfishing of bluefin tuna
2007, implementation of 15 year recovery plan begins:
- 15 year recovery plan developed by ICCAT after a stock assessment in 2006 showed bluefin tuna stocks are close to collapse
- 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
ICCAT strengthens measures in recovery plan
- the recovery plan was amended to strengthen the measures and rules to increase compliance
- permitted catch reduced further
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
- new ICCAT stock assessment in 2010 showed that situation is improving but Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna stock remains overfished
- from 2011, the permitted catch set by ICCAT is adapted each year based on scientific advice
- ICCAT Stock assessment in 2014 showed stocks improving faster than expected, leading to ICCAT setting a 20% increase in the bluefin tuna permitted catch between 2015 and 2017
Bluefin tuna reclassified as 'near threatened' from 'endangered'
- IUCN lowered the extinction status of Atlantic bluefin tuna (under the sub-population 'Europe') to 'near threatened' from the 2011 classification of 'endangered'
Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna stock no longer overfished
- ICCAT stock assessment showed that bluefin tuna are no longer being overfished in the Eastern Atlantic
First bluefin tuna fisheries enter into MSC assessment
- Japanese longline bluefin tuna fishery Usufuku Honten became the first bluefin tuna fishery anywhere in the world to enter MSC assessment in August 2018
- SATHOAN French Mediterranean bluefin tuna artisanal longline and handline fishery entered MSC assessment in September 2018
Stock management shifts to 'multi-year management'
- the switch from long-term recovery to multi-year management followed agreement from scientists that indications show the Eastern Atlantic stocks have recovered
- agreement to continue to gradually increase permitted catch
- permitted catch for 2020 set at 36,000 tonnes
First bluefin tuna fisheries achieve MSC certification
- in July 2020, following an assessment process that included objections to certification, an independent adjudicator gave the go-ahead for Japanese longline fishery Usufuku Honten to be MSC certified
- in October 2020 SATHOAN French Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery is certified
- new stock assessment planned by ICCAT for release in November 2020
2021IUCN lowered the extinction status of Atlantic bluefin tuna from its 2015 classification of 'endangered' to 'least concern'.
|Date of issue:||30 July 2020|
Bluefin tuna fishery nears MSC certification
Japanese fishery set to become the first to of its kind to meet MSC Standard