The Pacific Bluefin Tuna is a commercially valuable species that is especially prized in Japan. The fish is particularly valued for sashimi and sushi and large specimens have been known to fetch enormous prices at seafood auctions.
Aggressive fishing reduced the bluefin biomass through the late 1990s and 2000s to only a few percent of its potential unfished levels. Beginning in 2011, The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission began management measures that reduced the catch of smaller bluefin as well as limited the catch of larger bluefin. The goal was to allow more fish to grow to maturity. The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission adopted similar resolutions a year later. Despite these efforts, increasing concern about declining bluefin levels led to a petition to list the species as endangered. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries organization determined that while the population was near historical lows, the remaining 1.6 million fish was a sufficient number to avoid the risk of extinction and that the measures in place were sufficient.
A new assessment of the bluefin population has shown that the species is now increasing and includes many younger fish that will help accelerate its rebound. The assessment by NOAA showed that the bluefin stock was greater than the first rebuilding target set for 2019.
According to the NOAA Fisheries biologists that performed the assessment, the species has responded exactly as predicted given the actions that were taken. The bluefin tuna is an amazingly resilient fish and it is continuing to demonstrate that fact.
Photo, posted June 1, 2022, courtesy of Philippe Yuan via Flickr.