Pacific Bluefin Tuna: Catch Could Increase in 2020
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Northern Committee met in Portland, Oregon, last week to discuss two proposals to increase catch limits on Pacific bluefin. Despite continued overfishing of the depleted species, the Committee recommended changes to the Pacific bluefin management measure that will lead to an increase in catch for 2020. However, The Northern Committee will need to reconvene at the WCPFC annual meeting in December to officially adopt the outcomes of this meeting, as the meeting failed to reach the required quorum due to the absence of four members.
The Northern Committee recommended that next year, Chinese Taipei be allowed to transfer 300mt of their adult catch limit to Japan. All countries will also be able to roll over up to 17 percent of their 2019 quota to be used to increase their catch of both adult and juvenile fish in 2020. This means that Japan will be able to catch hundreds of tons of additional fish in 2020 from a stock that is at just 3.3 percent of its unfished size and is just two years into a 17-year rebuilding plan.
Jamie Gibbon, an international fisheries expert for The Pew Charitable Trusts, issued the following comment on the results of the meeting: “It is very discouraging that members of the WCPFC Northern Committee have recommended to allow Japan and other countries to increase their catch of Pacific bluefin tuna next year, even though the population has been decimated to just 3.3 percent of its historic level by nearly a century of overfishing. Allowing this increase ignores the scientific advice and makes it less likely that species will recover. We now urge members of the WCPFC to reject this irresponsible recommendation at their annual meeting in December.
“More positively, countries took a step towards long-term sustainable management by reaching agreement on several targets that could be used to manage the Pacific bluefin fishery in the future. Now countries must ensure that the necessary science is carried out by dedicating funding and resources towards this very important work. Without agreement on a long-term harvest strategy for Pacific bluefin, we’ll continue to see political disagreements over short-term quota increases delay real progress towards rebuilding.”