The most recent stock assessment, done in 2014, put the Pacific bluefin population at just four per cent of historic unfished levels.
Still, some business owners in California don’t believe the science and point to anecdotal observations of more fish in eastern Pacific waters to explain their skepticism, writes Amanda Nickson, The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The truth is the population is still in trouble, and its status is likely to worsen if fishermen continue to catch Pacific bluefin tuna at current levels.
According to a recent analysis by scientists with Japan’s National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries, the size of the bluefin stock will continue to decline through 2018, even with full implementation of existing conservation measures.
These scientists also found that, over the next decade, there is a one in three chance that the Pacific bluefin population will fall to its lowest level ever recorded. These results have been included in the latest report of the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean, the group of scientists who produce assessments for the species.
Governments charged with managing this species have set an interim rebuilding target of only 6.9 per cent of the unfished size by 2024, a target that Pew does not consider to be precautionary considering the dire state of the population.
The new analysis shows that the probability of achieving such limited growth over that time has dropped from 89 per cent to 72 per cent, due to the historically low number of bluefin born in 2014. In the coming years, if the number of new fish doesn’t rebound as scientists project, the likelihood of recovery may drop further.
Pacific bluefin tuna is important to many people, so it’s easy to understand why some would be eager to grasp any sign of a potential recovery. However, the science tells us otherwise, said Ms Nickson.
The population is still far from the beginning of recovery, and is in urgent need of further protections. Strong, long-term management measures must be enacted based on that science if there is to be any future for this important species.