Bigeye tuna are under threat because authorities are failing to recognise the dire extent of overfishing.
In the Eastern Pacific up to 60 per cent of the bigeye tuna catch are small, juvenile fish, and the proportion of these is rising, says a new
report from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, and WWF.
“Removal of juvenile fish, before they reach adulthood and breed, compromises the sustainability of tuna stocks and reduces the
availability of adults for the high-value sashimi markets in Japan,” says Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Global Marine Programme Leader.
“Instead they end up being worth a few cents in a can, and tuna stocks are on the verge of collapse. The biological and economic future
of the bigeye tuna fishery is at serious risk.”
The report reveals that bigeye tuna stocks in the Eastern Pacific, Indian, Atlantic and Western and Central Pacific Oceans are all
suffering from excessive fishing and the Eastern Pacific stock is overfished.
Bigeye tuna is highly prized in Japanese sashimi markets, but unless fisheries are better managed, the bigeye will become yet another
endangered tuna species, like Atlantic and Southern bluefin tunas.
Measures needed include the setting of precautionary catch limits, introduction of bigeye population restoration programmes, halting the
harvesting of juvenile fish, and improved data collection.
“Science demands a sharp reduction in the catch of bigeye tuna, but over the past decade this advice has been ignored,² says Dr Simon Cripps, Director of WWF’s International Marine Programme. “Once again the high seas are being fished out, and unless global intervention
is effective, important fish stocks will be lost forever.”
The report shows that government members of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations-the main international mechanism to regulate
fishing on the high seas-have generally been slow to respond to scientific advice, have failed to address overfishing of bigeye tuna and
have not met their legal obligations under the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement.
The collapse of bigeye tuna stocks will have a profound economic impact on fishing fleets, associated processing and trading industries and on a number of island States who rely on income from fishing fleet fees.
The report is launched before the organisation in charge of bigeye tuna management in the Western and Central Pacific-The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)-meets to discuss management measures. WWF and TRAFFIC calls on WCPFC members to act in line with their international obligations and follow the advice of the Commission’s Scientific Committee to reduce bigeye catch. TRAFFIC and
WWF would like to see a total catch reduction of around 39%.