Delegates from around the world have gathered in Morocco to determine the fate of a fish. It’s a strange thing – men and women in suits locked behind closed doors, poring over statistics and spreadsheets, jockeying for position and power – all to decide how many bluefin tuna may be legally hauled out of the Atlantic each year.
Rarely has a species caused so much rancor, but the coffers of thousands of people will either expand or shrink depending on what new quotas are set at the 18th Special Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna in Agadir. Although stocks are gradually improving thanks to past quotas, conservation experts warn that the species is in no way out of danger.
Caps on bluefin tuna fishing in the Mediterranean have allowed the species to recover, although there is cause to believe that limits are not honored and overfishing still occurs. The Bluefin Tuna industry has high stakes since the muscular meat sells for a premium.
“In January 2012, a prime, 593-lb (269-kg) bluefin tuna sold in a Japanese fish market for $736,000 (¥56.49 million), a world record,” according to National Geographic.
With one of the world’s most aggressive fishing fleets, Spain has been pressing the European Union to increase the number of fish that can be caught in advance of the current cap’s pending expiration.
“The fate of bluefin tuna depends on an international negotiation decided almost entirely by fishermen,” said Catherine Kilduff, an attorney from the Center for Biological Diversity. “For the sake of not repeating the mistakes of a long history of mismanagement, we urge votes that will cap bluefin tuna fishing at current levels.”
“There are still too many boats for too few fish to be sustainably caught,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries for WWF-Mediterranean.
“ICCAT scientists are clear this year that the fishing quotas must not increase to enable Atlantic bluefin tuna to fully recover over the next decade,” Tudela said.” WWF calls on ICCAT contracting parties to stick to this recommendation.”
The press were invited to attend the opening ceremony of this year’s meeting in Agadir, which opened on Nov. 12 and closes on Nov. 19, but are not permitted to participate in any subsequent meetings, a sign of how carefully the quotas will be vetted.
Image of bluefin tuna, Shutterstock