Urgent action necessary to save Pacific tuna stocks

All eyes are on fish stocks this week, as Fauna & Flora International joined a global group of conservation bodies and fisheries experts to draw attention to the dire plight of tuna stocks in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean.

An intergovernmental body, comprised of 16 member countries and currently mandated to regulate fishing fleets and avoid over-exploitation of tuna in the region, has failed to take action on the issue. The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) has not taken a single decision to manage further depleting tuna populations in any of its past six meetings.

The body is meeting again in California this week, but conservation groups fear the inaction will continue.

Callum Roberts, FFI Council Member and Professor of Marine Conservation at the University of York said: “The IATTC is failing tuna and jeopardises the future of the tuna fishing industry by not introducing the necessary measures to protect stocks.”

As IATTC member countries fail to reach agreement, the tuna stand little chance of recovering; a fact even IATTC’s own scientists confirm. With increasing urgency at meeting after meeting, these highly skilled fisheries experts have used robust scientific information to put forward a suite of urgently required actions to avoid over-fishing of tuna stocks – only to be ignored.

Unsurprisingly, things are not looking good for the fish, especially the region’s bigeye tuna. These highly prized fish may be on the same downward spiral that have taken bluefin tuna in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean to the brink of economic extinction.

It’s not only the fish that are at risk. Tens of thousands of jobs in poor communities that dot the coasts of Latin America depend on tuna processing for their livelihoods. IATTC argue that adopting the actions recommended by scientists would have dire economic consequences for these people, as well as tuna boat operators and their crews.

However, FFI and its peers urge that hard decisions must be taken NOW or impacts on the fish and people dependent on marine resources will only get worse.

Callum Roberts added: “If the IATTC is to become an effective force in protecting tuna and the interests of the industry, members must recognise that they have to put the interests of the fish first. Without healthy fish stocks, there cannot be productive fisheries.”

If the IATTC does not act soon, responsibility will fall to consumers to make their tuna purchases from environmentally responsible sources. This would not only be good business and good news for the fish, but also for the consumers who can enjoy responsibly captured tuna. But for now, all eyes are on the IATTC.


Are you as worried as us about the state of our oceans? Why not watch ‘End of the line’ – the first major feature documentary revealing the impact of overfishing on our oceans. The film was released in the US earlier this year, had its UK premier this week and is available online here.