Tuna - Shrinking 'The Gap'

Photo by Benson Kua | flickr.com

While the story about overfishing by commercial fishers is a familiar one, what organizations are doing to solve this problem is lesser known.

All tuna species have been dangerously diminished due to overharvesting. The Pew Environmental Group (PEG) is an organization that is responsible for managing tuna and similar species in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. This association has completed an analysis of fish harvesting for both 2008 and 2010. The numbers are shocking - the eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna has surpassed the official quota by 141 percent during 2010 (with 2008 exceeding the target at 131 percent).

However, these numbers do not contain black market bluefin (which are missing from official databases). This shows the ‘gap’ of the tuna to be caught in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, occurring even though the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) has established “enhanced reporting and enforcement measures.”

During 2009 and 2010, more than 70,500 tons of fish were caught in the Mediterranean and Northeastern Atlantic (while targets were only 12,900 tons). 395,554 tons were caught from 1998 to 2010. However, market figures show that there are 491,265 tons, which leaves a gap of about 100,000 tons of fish -worth about $2.7 million.

The ICCAT has an annual meeting during November. The PEG strongly suggests ICCAT to take immediate actions in the next meeting. Specifically, the PEG has asked the ICCAT to improve the bluefin tuna catch and quotas by making sure that an electronic documentation system is in place for the 2012 fishing season.

Atlantic bluefin tuna is declared endangered and susceptible to collapse under continued excessive fishing pressure by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) this year.

At this stage, we may be too late to protect the tuna from becoming endangered but we can still urge our government or international government agencies to slow down the fishing of the tuna. There are many organizations (i.e. Defenders of Wildlife, Pacific Salmon Foundation) that are trying to help the wild fish from complete extinction. We can join these non-profit organizations or even donate to successfully help fish survive and thrive. We must act before it is too late.