The United States announced last week that it will seek the strongest possible management for the conservation of Atlantic bluefin tuna, sending a clear and definitive statement to the international community that the current status quo is not acceptable.
Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator announced in a statement that the U.S. strongly supports Monaco's proposal to list Atlantic bluefin tuna under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – a move that would still allow fishermen to sell bluefin domestically but would protect the species from high-seas fishing and international trade.
In addition, Lubchenco reassured the marine conservation community that the U.S. would apply pressure at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meeting, which is to be held in Brazil in November, to establish management measures that will put an end to overfishing and set responsible science-based quotas that will allow tuna stocks to recover. The United States will consider amending or withdrawing support for the Monaco proposal if ICCAT adopts significantly strengthened management and compliance measures.
"Stocks of both western and eastern Atlantic Bluefin Tuna have been reduced by overfishing such that they are unlikely to recover unless swift and strong action is taken to reduce overfishing,” explains Dr. Bruce B. Collette, Chair of IUCN’s SSC Tuna and Billfish Specialist Group. “Although western and eastern Atlantic stocks have separate spawning areas (Gulf of Mexico and Mediterranean Sea, respectively), movement back and forth between the eastern and western Atlantic means that the population in the western Atlantic is partially dependent on the eastern Atlantic stock.”
The action of both the departments of Commerce and Interior shows just how serious they consider the problem to be and their commitment to leading the charge in regulating the global approach to fishing. Dr Lubchenco concluded by saying, “Improving international fishery management and ending illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing are high priorities for the United States government, Congress, commercial and recreational fishermen, and conservationists”.