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Is bluefin tuna threatened by overfishing?

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In the 2015 European Red List of Marine Fishes compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Atlantic bluefin tuna is listed as Near Threatened.

Overfishing and overcapacity of fishing fleets are the main cause of the depletion of bluefin tuna.

Did you know?

The scourge of plastic at sea also threatens bluefin tuna. According to a 2015 study of large predators in the Mediterranean (tuna and swordfish), 32.4% of bluefin tuna specimens surveyed contained plastic in their stomachs, a real concern for the IUCN and a wake-up call about the potential effects of this debris on human health.

Thon Mer

In 2006, in order to avoid a total collapse of the populations, a recovery plan for theEastern Atlantic and Mediterranean was adopted, including measures to monitor and control fishing activities (closed seasons, obligation of a “minimum conservation size” of 115 cm or 30 kg (certain types of fishing have derogations at 8 kg or 75 cm), ban on reconnaissance aircraft, presence of observers on board vessels, traceability of catches, etc.), but the fishing quotas are still too high

A small victory at CITES

Under pressure from NGOs and certain states (including the Principality of Monaco and France) who advocate the inclusion of the species in Annex 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – which would have the effect of prohibiting international trade – the quota was revised downwards (13,500 tonnes) for 2010, following scientific advice for the first time; an important victory for organisations working for sustainable bluefin tuna fishing!

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An improving situation since 2019

Thanks to the strengthening of the recovery plan and more effective control, the bluefin tuna situation is improving from 2009 onwards. Declared catches are decreasing, aerial monitoring shows that young bluefin tuna are more abundant, the spawning biomass is increasing, and fishermen are observing them more regularly. Today, the species is no longer “overexploited” but the current stock, although in better condition, is far from having recovered its preindustrial level, and bad practices such as illegal fishing persist.

With fishing quotas set to increase (32,240 tonnes for 2019, 36,000 tonnes for 2020 – including 19,460 tonnes for the European Union and 6,026 tonnes for France) – the highest levels since the recovery plan was put in place – it will be up to the international community, scientists and consumers to carefully monitor the situation of Atlantic bluefin tuna over the coming years. To be continued, then!

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