GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Fishing Industry Stories

September 28, 2012

Bluefin bounce back in sea

Scientists surprised by recovery

Efforts to conserve giant bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean, keyed to protecting juveniles, are working, according to a report in a leading Spanish newspaper.

The report focused on a draft study by a committee of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna, or ICCAT, and was published last Friday in El Pais, Spain’s largest circulation daily. A synopsis of the lengthy article was also posted on the website atuna.com.

The news is especially encouraging because the U.S. and other Western Hemisphere nations for years have followed what is considered responsible policies only to see the Mediterranean bluefin — which mix with western Atlantic stocks — captured young, penned up and bulked up with food the way geese are force-fed to produce the best foie gras before slaughter.

El Pais’s article has quickly gained international attention for the optimistic findings by the panel of ICCAT.

World Wildlife Foundation, which helped craft the Mediterranean tuna conservation plan, said it “welcomes this good news.”

Commercial and recreational fishing for bluefin on Stellwagen Bank and Georges Bank is based in Gloucester, which is the backdrop for the reality TV show “Wicked Tuna” on the National Geography channel. There are about 4,100 federally permitted tuna fishermen in the U.S., concentrated in Massachusetts and Maine.

Conservation advocate-authors and many environmental non-government organizations have proclaimed the imminent demise of bluefin tuna, the purported victim of profligate human nature and its love of the dark, maroon flesh as sushi and sashimi, a development emanating from Japan, that has proved nearly universal in the post war years.

In May 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration rejected a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity to put bluefin on the endangered species list.

“It may be too early to say we’re out of the woods,” said the center’s oceans and senior attorney director, Myoko Sakashita. “We’re curious about the findings of the Western assessment,” which is to be released at a five-day meeting of ICCAT’s Standing Committee on Research and Statistics. The meeting begins Monday in Madrid.

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