Pacific Bluefin Tuna Population Shrinking at 'Alarming Rates' Due to Continued Overfishing

bluefin auction photo

photo: Stewart Butterfield via flickr

The bulk of the focus on the plight of the bluefin tuna has been on the Atlantic population. Understandable considering that at current fishing levels the iconic species will be extinct within a couple of years. But a new study, reported on in the Mainichi Daily News, shows that Pacific bluefin are being critically overfished as well.The big issue is that because of overfishing, younger and younger fish are being taken, before they have a chance to reproduce. Study leader Toshio Katsukawa:

It is imperative to suspend the catch during egg production periods and reduce the capture of juvenile fish. If we wait to catch them until they get bigger, the resource will recover and revenue to fishermen will also increase.

Want an example? Katsuwaka says the average weight of bluefin in the Tokyo fish markets has dropped from 100-160 kilograms in the 1980s to just 50 kilograms today.

The importance of that stat goes beyond its representation of overfishing. It's important to remember, to remind ourselves, how many fish used to be in the sea. It's important to not become accustomed to diminished levels of flora and fauna, to realize how quickly we are killing off our fellow inhabitants of this planet.

The proportion of bluefin tuna aged less than 1 year old among the fish caught stood at around 60 percent during the 1960s, but climbed to over 70 percent after 2000. More recently, the combined proportion of fish of less than 2 years old has surpassed 90 percent.

The study shows the number of large fish aged 6 years or older that were caught using the so-called pole-and-line fishing method has been dramatically declining since 2004, while the catch of bluefin using encircling nets fell sharply in 2009.

Read more: Study shows steep drop in Pacific bluefin tuna
See also: How Will the BP Oil Spill Affect Critically Endangered Bluefin Tuna?
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More on Bluefin Tuna:
Endangered Bluefin Tuna Fetches Record Price at Tokyo Auction
CITES Votes No on Bluefin Tuna Ban - Japanese Embassy Serves the Endangered Delicacy at Convention Reception
Mitsubishi Hopes to Profit From Bluefin Tuna Decline

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