Pacific Bluefin tuna is one of the most valuable fisheries in the Northern Pacific Ocean, supporting a billion dollar industry that sustains the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people and contributes to economic growth and social development in the region.
"We are deeply concerned about the fact that Pacific Bluefin tuna breeding stock have declined from their unfished levels by more than 96 per cent,” said Dr Aiko Yamauchi, WWF-Japan Head of Fishery and Seafood Project.
“Around 90 per cent of the fishing take is now young fish that have not yet reproduced. It is clear that Pacific Bluefin tuna management in the Pacific is totally inadequate to preserve the tuna stock.”
In September last year, the nine member countries who participated in the Northern Committee (NC) of the WCPFC took some first steps to protect Pacific Bluefin, in accepting scientific advice to halve the fishing catch of juvenile tuna, a prized but beleaguered fish. The NC further agreed that fishing nations must establish a catch documentation system.
WWF strongly supports catch reduction for juvenile tuna under 30kg but the real urgency is for the WCPFC and its sister body IATTC to adopt a rigorous, long-term Pacific-wide recovery plan for Pacific Bluefin Tuna with robust harvest control rules and effective mechanisms to cut fishing effort when limits and reference points are being approached.
Japan, the United States and South Korea are the major countries fishing Pacific Bluefin, while the main, dominating consumption market is Japan.
"In case NC fails to agree on robust long-term recovery plan, which should include at least a 20 per cent recovery target for the spawning stock biomass (SSB) size before fishing can take place, fishing Pacific Bluefin tuna should be suspended until precautionary, science-based measures are put in place," said Dr Yamauchi.
Speaking before the meeting, Amanda Nickson, Director of global tuna conservation for The Pew Charitable Trusts, stated: “The Northern Committee, the ISC, and the WCPFC all have said that a long-term recovery and management plan for Pacific bluefin is important, but these statements mean little unless they are followed by concrete actions.
"This year, the committee must take the first step toward progress by recommending effective, precautionary, and science-based measures to rebuild and maintain a healthy Pacific bluefin tuna population and fishery.
"Without such action, the international community will be forced to look at other options, including a global trade ban for this species. This fishery and population cannot be allowed to collapse because of insufficient action by fisheries managers.”