Overfishing may deplete European bluefin tuna

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Washington, Nov 9 : New analyses have revealed that the European bluefin tuna could become depleted throughout the northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean, all due to overfishing.

Bluefin tuna, is highly valued as sushi, with a kilo of its much sought after meat can bring in prices reaching 130 Euros at fish auctions.

The species in the Mediterranean Sea and northeast Atlantic is caught by fishermen from many countries, particularly France, Spain and Italy.

But there are fewer tuna left in the sea, and those that are left are younger and smaller.

In 2006, the organisation that manages bluefin tuna fisheries (ICCAT; International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) launched a recovery plan whose main objective is to rebuild the population by 2022.

Rebuilding would be achieved by gradually lowering fishing quotas between 2007-2010 and implementing other fishery regulations.

But, the management plan is however insufficient to stop the population from getting even smaller in the coming years.

That is evident from analyses done by Brian MacKenzie (DTU Aqua) together with colleagues Henrik Mosegaard (DTU Aqua) and Andrew A. Rosenberg (University of New Hampshire, USA).

"Our calculations show that the present recovery plan has little chance of reaching its goal and will not be able to protect the population in the northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean from declining even further," said Professor Brian MacKenzie, National Institute of Aquatic Resources at The Technical University of Denmark (DTU Aqua).

"The population is presently at its lowest level ever, and the adult biomass has fallen 10 years in a row. Every year we set a new record low," he added.

In 2006, the officially reported landings were 30,650 tonnes.

On top of that come the illegal landings. ICCAT itself has estimated that the illegal landings were about 20,000 tonnes so that total landings (legal plus illegal) were 50,000 tonnes.

In 2007, ICCAT suspects the total legal and illegal landings were 60,000 tonnes.

According to Professor MacKenzie, "New regulations and measures need to protect the fish that are still left in the wild. This will mean a substantial reduction of both fishing mortality and fishing effort, plus the political will to implement and enforce new regulations."

"The longer we wait, the more difficult it will be to rebuild the population. There is also a risk that the population might never come back if it declines too much. That is because the ecosystem could change so that it is less productive for bluefin tuna," he added.

ANI

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