A Victory for Pacific Bluefin Tuna
The Pacific bluefin tuna species has been struggling for decades, as its population dropped below 3 percent of the level that existed before the onset of industrial-scale fishing. Now, thanks in part to the work of our science, policy and sustainable seafood teams, it may be on the road to recovery.
In the past 12 months, we've published significant research papers, participated in international negotiations and mobilized top chefs on five continents in support of science-based management of bluefin tuna across the Pacific Ocean. Our efforts paid dividends in 2017—and now we're poised to do more.
Perhaps the most significant development last year came in September when Pacific fishing nations agreed to recover the population of Pacific bluefin tuna to a sustainable level.
"This was a historic moment for this remarkable species, which is so important to the ocean ecosystem and people around the Pacific Rim," says Chief Conservation Officer Margaret Spring.
The Aquarium has long been a leading voice for the science-based management of Pacific bluefin tuna. Our staff experts are both engaged in the scientific research on the species and act as advisors to the United States delegation at international negotiations over its management. Working across sectors and national borders—in partnership with fishing groups, nonprofits and governments, including Japan—we've been a consistent voice in support of putting Pacific bluefin tuna on a path to recovery.
In advance of last summer's negotiations, we helped mobilize the international community's call for action, including nearly 200 chefs and culinary leaders who backed decisive action to reverse the decline in the Pacific bluefin tuna population.
In 2018, we're expanding our extensive tagging program.
In recent years, we've partnered with researchers in Japan to electronically tag and track record numbers of bluefin tuna—nearly 2,000 juvenile and adult bluefin tuna in 2017 alone. And we've worked in the eastern Pacific with our Stanford University colleagues to tag fish that have migrated from Japan to feed in the California Current off Mexico and California.
This winter, we're hosting one of our Japanese research colleagues. Later in the year, we'll return to Japan and will, for the first time, expand our field tagging to additional major feeding grounds for Pacific bluefin tuna. This will further document the migratory pathways used by these wide-ranging fish.
"We look forward to advancing critical research and policies that will ensure a more sustainable future for Pacific bluefin tuna and coastal communities fishing across the Pacific Ocean," Margaret says.