On October 15th, Tom Strickland, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, announced that the United States will support a proposal to list the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) in Appendix I of CITES. Supporting the Atlantic bluefin tuna in this appendix would increase protection for the fish and prohibit all international commercial trade of the animal. The proposal, originally supported and listed by Monaco, would be put to vote during the fifteenth regular meeting of the CITES parties and would require a two-thirds majority of the 175 attending parties and voting at CoP15 in order to be enacted.
The Atlantic bluefin tuna is a very popular fish that is harvested for both commercial and recreational fishing. A single fish can fetch tens of thousands of dollars, depending on size and quality, making them very popular commercially. Populations are divided into two stocks, the Mediterranean (or Eastern) stock and the Western Atlantic (or Atlantic) stock. The stocks are determined by the location at which each group breeds, genetic differences, age differences, and other factors.
The Eastern stocks of Atlantic bluefin tuna have declined tremendously over the past 50 years. From 1957 to 2007, it is estimated that the eastern stock has declined by 74.2%. Additionally, the majority of that decline (60.9%) occurred within the last ten years. Even more alarming, the Western Atlantic spawning stock has declined by 82.4% from 1970 to 2007, which is 13-year shorter time frame. However, the Western population has, over the past 10 years, reached a stabilized population level.
The conservation and protection of the bluefin tuna is currently regulated by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or ICCAT. This organization is an cooperative effort between regional fisheries and governmental agencies. ICCAT currently has 48 countries as members of the group and is scheduled to meet November 6-15 in Recife, Brazil. Tuna management is going to be top priority for the group during the meeting this November.
For more information on the subject, please visit: US Department of the Interior Press Release