Bluefin tuna bounces back

Species recovers in just six years following implementation of recovery plan

A bluefin tuna is caught off the shores of Tarragona.
A bluefin tuna is caught off the shores of Tarragona.JOSEP LLUIS SELLART (EL PAÍS)

Bluefin tuna is a surprising species in many ways. Adults can weigh up to 300 kilograms, they are warm-blooded and can swim at 70 miles per hour. It also has a great capacity for recovery.

In 2006, after decades of overfishing and at the peak of demand in the global sushi market, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) created a plan that included slashing quotas - the amount dropped from 32,000 metric tons in 2007 to 12,900 this year - and a ban on netting any fish weighing under 30 kilograms.

An ICCAT report to be published soon details the remarkable recovery of the bluefin tuna population, which has left many scientists open-mouthed. Among the data to be included in the report are the success of fixed coastal nets and the swiftness with which seine fishermen complete their quotas. Balfegó, in Barcelona, took just a week to fill its warehouses.

"Since 2008 there has been a significant reduction in declared catches, in line with more restrictive quotas," the report states. "All of the models applied by the group show a clear recovery in the biomass of reproductive bluefin tuna. With the recovery plan, the European fleet has stopped catching a million juveniles each year. Just this measure has had a huge impact on the population."

The WWF says the "example of the management of bluefin tuna fishing should lead the European Commission, the European parliament and member states to approve a new Common Fishing Policy."

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