News: AAAS 2008 Annual Meeting News Blog
Researchers: Tuna Population Decline Similar to Cod Collapse
A panel of marine scientists at a AAAS Annual Meeting press briefing warned that regional tuna populations are being depleted at a dangerous rate, due to population mismanagement and the national palate for juvenile tuna.
If nothing is done to reverse the trend, the 18 February 2008 panel said regional tuna populations may experience a collapse similar to the Atlantic cod -- a favorite dish in Boston, once considered cheap and plentiful, that “shaped the economy of whole nations.”
“We will never know more about a fish than we knew about the Atlantic cod, yet their populations still collapsed,” said Daniel Pauly, a researcher at the University of British Columbia. “We need to make sure the same thing does not happen with tuna.”
Rashid Sumaila, a researcher at the University of British Columbia, said that the Atlantic cod provides only 1 or 2 percent of the catch it did 50 years ago. While tuna has not yet been depleted to that level, Sumaila estimates that some tuna yields are presenting just 60 percent of catches compared to the middle of last century.
“People who eat tuna need to ask themselves whose fish they are eating,” Sumaila said, “their’s or their grandchildren’s.”
Jose Ingles, a researcher with the World Wildlife Fund, spoke about a '"peace park under development between Indonesia and the Philippines to counter dwindling tuna populations. The protected area, termed the “tuna highway,” allows juvenile tuna to migrate to fishing grounds and mature tuna to return to reproduce.
Barbara Block, a marine scientist at Stanford University, highlighted a tagging program in which scientists are able to track bluefin tuna to learn more about their complex migration patterns. The program recently tagged its 1,000th fish.
The panelists drew attention to the international ban on ivory as a successful program to protect elephants, suggesting that labeling or a regional ban on juvenile bluefin tuna may be effective in protecting threatened population.