A new report shows that Pacific bluefin tuna stocks are down 96.4% from unfished levels.
As the Pacific bluefin tuna becomes rarer, the fish is commanding high prices at auction. At a recent auction in Tokyo, Japan, one bluefin tuna sold for $1.76 million. Unfortunately, the high prices will only spur overfishing as fishing vessels compete for the last remaining tuna.
The Mediterranean and Atlantic bluefin tuna populations show possible signs of recovery, despite a brisk black market in the fish. The Pacific bluefin tuna does not. Pacific bluefin nest and spawn in the western Pacific Ocean and this is where the most fishing is done. Many of the tuna are caught as juveniles, before they have had a chance to reproduce. While there is some management of the western Pacific fisheries, there is no limit to the number of tuna that can be taken.
The nations responsible for most of the overfishing of the Pacific bluefin tuna are the United States, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea. The U.S. limits catches in the eastern Pacific and closed the fishing season early when the Pacific bluefin tuna quota was reached in August. However, fisheries quotas will need to be set in the spawning grounds of these fish if the population is going to have a chance at recovery.
Bluefin tuna photo via Shutterstock