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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

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


ICCAT strengthens measures in recovery plan


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


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


Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna stock no longer overfished


First bluefin tuna fisheries enter into MSC assessment


Stock management shifts to 'multi-year management'


First bluefin tuna fisheries achieve MSC certification


IUCN lowered the extinction status of  Atlantic bluefin tuna from its 2015 classification of 'endangered' to 'least concern'.
MSC Fisheries fact sheet: Eastern Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 2020
Date of issue: 30 July 2020
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