A ONE-hour film entitled ‘Superfish: Bluefin Tuna’ is to be aired on the National Geographic Channel this evening.
According to the American Bluefin Tuna Association (ABTA), it intends to capitalise on the heightened interest in the species generated by National Geographic's 10-part series, ‘Wicked Tuna’ that premiered on April 1. Tonight’s programme is a production of the Tag A Giant Foundation, a California-based not-for-profit that conducts scientific research on marine conservation issues, and is set to include some of the most spectacular underwater footage ever taken of bluefin.
As mentioned in the film, bluefin tuna is found in all major oceans in the world. The three sub-species are Southern, Pacific and Atlantic bluefin, each representing a genetically different spawning stock.
As the ABTA points out, bluefin is a very complex issue and the complexities are often overlooked. One simple example of the confusion is the general conception that bluefin issues are generic or worldwide in nature, without specifying a particular sub-species of the fish. Fortunately, for Atlantic bluefin tuna, there are noted scientific authorities to which media and the public can turn to understand the present state of the science of bluefin without incurring the bias or confusing data that is often found in the press releases and web content of these interest groups.
The Standing Committee for Research and Statistics (SCRS), the scientific arm of the International Committee for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) and the preeminent authority on bluefin science, publishes a Stock Assessment on Atlantic bluefin every two years. The most recent stock assessment was in September 2010. A more recent and very extensive study, referred to as the Status Review on Atlantic bluefin, was undertaken by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and published in May of 2011, the culmination of a year-long process to determine if Atlantic bluefin warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Even more recently, at the beginning of 2012, the Canadian Government Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) published their own findings on the question of endangerment status for Atlantic bluefin under the Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA). Many of the most highly regarded marine scientists and pelagic science specialists have been involved in these scientific studies. Viewed as a whole, these three papers represent the state of the science of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Both the US and Canadian governments have separately determined in these studies that Atlantic bluefin is not endangered or threatened with endangerment. The SCRS have never stated that Atlantic bluefin was endangered and the scientists of SCRS have always advocated for sensible, sustainable harvest levels. The bona fides of the scientists involved in each of these scientific studies is unquestioned, and the findings in these studies are unchallenged.
"These studies should finally lay to rest the question of endangerment of Atlantic bluefin but some organizations and individuals prefer to take a more radical view in the media to serve their fundraising needs", said Rich Ruais, Executive Director of ABTA.
Given that the US purse seine fleet has been inactive in recent years, the only active directed US commercial Atlantic bluefin fishery is an artisanal fishery comprised of small vessels that catch one fish at a time using rod and reel or harpoon. This artisanal fishery is the most highly regulated bluefin fishery in the world, has enjoyed decades of full compliance with regulations and is widely known and understood to harvest sustainably. In this fishery is embodied the concept of sustainable fishing practices and through its leadership in the area of conservation has become an exemplar for all other bluefin fisheries worldwide.