Curbing bluefin catches

Not that our foreign fishing brethren have shown any great desire in the past to curb their bluefin appetite. Yes, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas lowered the 2009 catch limit from 28,500 metric tons to 22,000 metric tons. But scientists had sought to cut the catch by another 7,000 metric tons.

At this year’s ICCAT meeting, which concluded Nov. 15, the organization cut the harvest limit to 13,500 metric tons for 2010. NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco says the cutback is “a marked improvement over the current rules, but it is insufficient to guarantee the long-term viability of either the fish or the fishery.”

The U.S. ICCAT delegation sought a package of measures for eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna that would end overfishing and offer a high probability of successfully rebuilding bluefin stocks by 2023. According to NOAA, scientific data suggests a total quota of 8,000 metric tons or lower would have been ideal.

But NOAA says that under U.S. leadership in the Compliance Committee, ICCAT made unprecedented progress and held countries accountable for compliance infractions. And the meeting yielded a commitment to implementing a science-based catch level for 2011 to 2013 with a 60 percent chance of meeting the rebuilding target by 2023.

Maybe 2010 will finally be the year our fishing brethren across the sea will commit to curtailing their bluefin harvests. Their past fishing practices don’t suggest that will happen, but I’ll make a New Year’s resolution to try really, really hard to keep an open mind. But you know how New Year’s resolutions go.

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