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Grim outlook for bluefin tuna, report says


    Kiyoshi Kimura, president of Kiyomura Co., posed a bluefin tuna at his Sushi Zanmai restaurant near Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. The latest assessment by scientists paints a likely bleak future for the Pacific bluefin tuna, the favorite of sushi-lovers whose population has dropped by more than 97 percent from its historic levels.


    A prospective buyer inspected the quality of fresh tuna before the first auction of the year at Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo on Jan. 5. The latest assessment by scientists paints a likely bleak future for the Pacific bluefin tuna, the favorite of sushi-lovers whose population has dropped by more than 97 percent from its historic levels.


    People watched a bluefin tuna laid in front of a sushi restaurant near Tsukiji fish market after the year’s celebratory first auction in Tokyo, on Jan. 5. The latest assessment by scientists paints a likely bleak future for the Pacific bluefin tuna, the favorite of sushi-lovers whose population has dropped by more than 97 percent from its historic levels.

TOKYO » The latest scientific assessment paints a likely bleak future for the Pacific bluefin tuna, a sushi lovers’ favorite whose population has dropped by more than 97 percent from its historic levels.

A draft summary of a report by the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean seen by The Associated Press shows the current population of bluefin tuna is estimated at 2.6 percent of its “unfished” size. A previous assessment put the population at an already dire 4.2 percent.

Overfishing has continued despite calls to reduce catches to allow the species to recover. In some areas, bluefin tuna is harvested at triple the levels considered to be sustainable.

“The situation is really as bad as it appears,” said Amanda Nickson, director for Global Tuna Conservation at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Limits imposed after the previous estimates actually allowed some countries to up their catches, she said.

“If those managers again fail to act in a conservation-minded way this time, it may be time for other actions, such as an international trade ban or complete fishing moratorium,” Nickson said.

The independent scientists who compiled the report said improved data make them more confident in their latest estimates than in previous ones. The report is due to be reviewed by the committee in July.

The report estimated that in 2014, the total recruitment level of the fish, or the percentage of new fish that survive each year, was below 3.7 million fish, the second lowest level ever.

Under current levels of reproduction and management of the fisheries in the Pacific, the likelihood of rebuilding stocks to healthy levels is only 0.1 percent, the report says.

Cutting catches by a fifth would improve those odds to only 3 percent.

Japanese eat about 80 percent of all bluefin tuna caught worldwide, and stocks of all three bluefin species — the Pacific, Southern and Atlantic — have fallen over the past 15 years as demand for the luscious, buttery pink-to-red fleshed fish has soared globally.

Organizations charged with helping to manage bluefin fisheries have set a goal of rebuilding the species’ population to 6.4 percent, or 42,592 metric tons, of unfished levels by 2024.

But 6.4 percent levels for a species like the Pacific bluefin, which can live for up to 40 years, are no guarantee of a recovery. Many experts believe 20 percent of historic levels is the minimum size for a sustainable fishery.

The international body that monitors fisheries in most of the Pacific Ocean, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, was unable to reach consensus last year on either short-term or long-term measures to help restore the bluefin population.

In Europe, officials have agreed last month on implementing a recovery plan for bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

A next step by conservationists could include efforts to get Pacific bluefin tuna banned from international trading.

Pacific bluefin tuna are spawned in the western parts of the northern Pacific but migrate throughout the ocean, complicating management of catches. The population of the species is estimated to have peaked in 1960.

An earlier estimate put the 2014 population of the bluefin at 26,000 tons. The most recent reduced that estimate by 9,000 tons, to 17,000 tons.

If the population of Pacific bluefins drops much further, it may no longer be economically feasible to fish for them.

At that point, “Pacific bluefin would be considered commercially extinct,” Nickson said.

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  • Scientists, Enviros and rational humans who care have been saying, stop fishing tuna for decades. Were fishers listening? Policymakers? We could lose the entire species of fish. Then what? An entire earthly species eaten by humans.

    • All but the junkiest fish are declining. Because a free for all ocean is like a free for all farm: In the end nobody gets anything. Fishermen are destroying their livelihood: But don’t blame them only . The lack of regulation is at the root of fish eradication and the disastrous overpopulation of humans which fuels the demand for fish. The population of Africa is doubling in 25 years – and they are already dirt-poor but keep at spawning irresponsibly. India and Pakistan and many rotten countries where life is worthless are not much better

      • You could make the exact same argument regarding overdevelopment and subsequent overpopulation on Oahu. Water, sewage and even electrical infrastructure CANNOT sustain mass development and influx of more new residents from Hoopili, Koa Ridge, etc. and the desire for Kakaako to become another Hong Kong full of massive skyscrapers that are supposedly “transit oriented” development, will result in slums on Oahu which right now are taking the form of homeless encampments throughout Oahu. Of course the pressure is to build, build, build to drive the construction industry and make $$$ yet in actuality the BILLIONS spent on the Oahu rail is actually drawing money OUT of Hawaii and creating a larger group of homeless that cannot afford to live in Hawaii because there consequence of these building projects are NOT infusion of private funds but requiring more taxpayer money to fund these projects and make these private companies and those connected very rich, like the Sukumarman Sukampto or Hemmeter and now Hughes (among others), who has hired a former City council rail ‘yes’ man to be their front guy. Hawaii residents worrying about Tuna and sashimi, should also start worrying what will happen as the Oahu train to nowhere project continues sapping billions out of Oahu’s economy and taxpayer’s wallets, overconstruction to increase the residence population that Oahu cannot sustain. The pressure is on to constantly raise taxes as Hawaii is the 2nd WORST in taxing its residents, only New York is worse. In a couple years time or sooner Hawaii will surpass New York as the highest taxed state in the nation of its residents and visitors in the nation and then Hawaii’s economy will start imploding on itself and turn into another Detroit.

      • Now there’s a thought. But the Japanese already eat that. They are just plain selfish and greedy. Look at dolphins and whales in the documentary film ‘The Cove.’ They don’t stop. Maybe because they’re Buddhist, they don’t believe in ‘The Seven Deadly Sins?’

        • I assume you’re referring to ‘gluttony’. That’s pretty amusing considering that the ‘Christian’ nation of America probably has the most obese people while Japan has among the least. And just FYI, I believe the majority of Japanese are Shinto, not Buddhist.

        • Wait, wait, are you blaming japan for this problems? Uhhhhh, tuna is eaten all over the world. Helloooo. Go look at Foodland. Get plenty ahi in the store.

        • I’m sorry, could you repeat that? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of your bible thumping.

  • The effects of uncontrolled fishing on a species of fish demonstrating the need for a rational, international fishery. This is where strong leadership is necessary, because if done right, there will be more catch for everyone.

  • As long as I still can have some other species of tuna sashimi life will be okay with me. Yellowtail is okay as sashimi goes. That’s the only two sashimi I like.

    • Unfortunately, many don’t have the same initiative as you. The sad thing is, many sashimi eaters worldwide (like the mainland)don’t know the difference between Blue Fin sashimi from Aku, but gauge their taste only by the price they pay……..or after having a few too many drinks to truly appreciate the difference.

  • “…commercially extinct”. I’m not sure what this term means or if it has any legal teeth … but/& I am sure that this concept will apply to many edible species on this planet within the current century. It is moral corruption to bring earths in creditable life to the brink of extinction in exchange for money. Maybe we need to expand our concept of rape.

  • Just ban Blue fin fishing for a few years or so. If anyone caught fishing or serving then level big time fines or even jail time. Go the same route as shark fins. You guys want to eat Blue fin then give them a chance to recover.

  • They are already starting to farm bluefin in Baltimore of all places. Maybe thats the wave of the future. Too much mercury in tuna already. Try eating tuna every day for a few months then take a mercury test and see what you have done to your brain…

  • The Japanese eat 80% of all bluefin tuna. Obviously they are the ones who are eating this species to extinction. Do they care? If they do, they will declare a moratorium on all fishing for bluefin for at least ten years. The future of this species is in their hands. We’ll see if they care enough to save bluefin tuna from extinction.

    • No they don’t care! They will only agree to moratoriums that allow them the ridiculously high quantities. They are not willing to give up much to allow a fairer distribution of quotas to other nations. This holds true for other species of fish as well. When it comes to fishing, no nation comes close to Japan in terms of greed and overconsumption. It’s made worse by their insistence on maintaining limits on imported beef, pork, and other meats that protect their local producers and keeping meat prices high. They are in denial of their gross culpability in destruction of many fish species as they’ve been in denial of their economic recession of the past 20 years which continues to grow worse every year.

  • I stopped eating fish from the Pacific Ocean after the leaking reactors of Fukushima in 2011. 5 years later, I’m still alive, don’t have cancer, and apparently, I still have too much hair!! I have to believe there is a GOD. And I ain’t planning my funeral anytime soon. Too bad, our past politicians that Hawaii voted and elected for didn’t discuss this or warn all those who have died or who have been touched by the death of a lost one. I’m not disrespecting or making fun of cancer strickened people. My father had cancer and beat it from defending our country in Vietnam, they called that chemical Agent Orange. But yes, we will have lots more succumb to cancer because of Fukushima and through consumption of eating fish that no one wanted to warn you about, either that or they don’t want to think about it. and Hawaii is located downplume from Fukushima. But who cares anyway? Obviously, people are more interested in the rail, and covering up Fukushima. They have special interest to NOT discuss it for fear of retaliation, or a disgrace to their culture and heritage, or perhaps a downfall to their prideful nation. #MakeHawaiiGreatAgain #TakeBackHawaii #Kaaihue4Congress

  • Blame the Japanese (really, I’m not joking). They eat more than 4 times the amount of tuna than any other nation. The “rich Yakuza” Japanese have made it a status game of paying outrageous amounts for prime tuna and generally driving up prices, making it profitable for other countries to overfish and send tuna to Japan. Their eco-consciousness in regards to fish and seafood consumption is non-existent and they don’t give a hoot if the world’s tuna disappears even while giving lip service to sustainability and quotas. Their insistence on still having “birthrights” to eating whales and dolphins should give everyone insight into where their heads are really at. Just visit Japan and look at rows and rows of fish eggs at their markets to see they actually enjoy destroying fish species even before they’re born.

  • I love Otoro but I’m willing to give it up for a few years if that’s what it takes to have a sustainable supply. The problem is that this a worldwide issue and until all countries abide to a moratorium nothing changes. Interesting comment about “commercially extinct”. I presume that means the cost of catching one fish exceeds the price at market. Given that the Japanese have been known to pay $100k for a single fish I’m not sure when it reaches “commercially extinct”.

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