Current Issues

Northern Bluefin Cuts

There is agreement from some members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to cut the catch of juvenile northern bluefin in the western and central Pacific by 50% from the average level seen between 2002 and 2004.

They also supported measures to prevent the catch of adults from increasing above that 2002-2004 baseline level.

This decision was taken at the end of a four-day subcommittee meeting of the Western  and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) held in Fukuoka, south-western Japan, in response to Tokyo’s proposal for a drastic reduction on the 2002-2004 average catch.

The latest assessment by the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean (ISC), an independent group of scientists who focus on species in the Northern Pacific, found that the Pacific bluefin population has dropped to under 6% of its unfished biomass — with steady declines over the past 15 years.

Today, juveniles make up nearly 98% of the total catch, which means that most have not had a chance to reproduce and contribute to future generations. The ISC warned that the population would not increase without significant cuts in catch for both adults and juveniles.

Discussing a longer-term plan for the species, members of the Northern Committee agreed on a ten-year rebuilding target for the population of 8% of its un-fished size.  While this is a start it would still mean the population would remain in a severely depleted state.

Large adult northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) are caught by recreational fishers off the South West Coast of New Zealand in August and September. Most are tagged and released and a number have been recaptured in the same area in following seasons. So far non- of these fish have been recaptured in the North Pacific.

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