Pacific bluefin is a relatively slow growing and long-lived epipelagic predator that is both a very important commercial and artisanal species. The majority of the catch in the Pacific is taken by purse seiners with much of the catch now fattened in pens before being sold on the sashimi market. Approximately 90% of fish is captured before it has a chance to breed and there are no effective regulations in place to combat this. There is great uncertainty in the last stock assessment yet Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB) is estimated to be between 40-60% of those historically observed. Some catch limits are in place for parts of the fishery yet it remains to be demonstrated how effective these are. Recent fishing effort has been above recommended levels and there are no other regulations for the fisheries. Harmony and cooperation is needed between the relevant authorities and assessment bodies. Avoid Pacific bluefin.
Tuna belong to the family Scombridae. They are large, oceanic fish and are seasonally migratory, some making trans-oceanic journeys. Bluefin tuna are the largest of the tuna species, reaching upwards of 680 kg. There are three species in each of the Pacific, Atlantic and Southern Oceans. In all oceans bluefins are known for their impressive migrations, routinely crossing ocean basins. Pacific bluefin tuna are generally smaller than their Atlantic cousins, reaching a maximum length of 3m and a maximum weight of 540kg. Not only do they have a hydrodynamic shape, their pectoral (side) fins can be retracted and, unlike other fish, their eyes are set flush to their body. Pacific bluefin tuna is capable of swimming at speeds of 12 to 18 miles per hour (20-30 km per hour) for brief periods. In the Pacific, tagging studies indicate there is only one stock with a spawning ground off southern Japan. Pacific bluefin tuna spawn between Okinawa (Japan) and the Philippines, in April and August, then migrate over 6,000 nautical miles to the eastern Pacific, eventually returning to their birth waters to spawn. They reach reproductive maturity at around 5 years and 60kg.
Pacific Bluefin catches have fluctuated widely, but without trend, since it was developed in the 1950s yet have stabilised over the last 20years between 5,800?10,000t. Pacific bluefin stocks are managed by the by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and the Inter-American tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and assessed by the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like species in the North Pacific (ISC). The latest stock assessment released in December 2012 revealed that Pacific bluefin biomass levels are near historical lows and fishing effort remains too high (above all biological reference points) to improve the situation.
The majority of Pacific bluefin are captured by east Asian fleets using purse seines. During recent years, most of the catches have been transported to holding pens, where the fish are held for fattening and later sale to sashimi markets. Lesser amounts of bluefin are caught via trolling, gillnet, trap, pole-and-line and longline gear. Purse seining is associated with bycatch of marine mammals and discarding of immature tuna. Fishing effort on juvenile fish, aged 0-3yr, is too high representing the majority of catches (90%). The ISC recommend that fishing effort be reduced to below 2002-2004 levels, particularly for juvenile fish.
The WCPFC limits total fishing effort and catches of juveniles (age 0-3) during 2011-2012 by vessels fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna north of 20N to below the 2002-2004 levels, except for artisanal fisheries. An IATTC Resolution limits 2012 commercial catches in the Convention Area to not exceed 5,600 tons in 2012, and not to exceed 10,000 tons in 2012-2013 combined.
International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, 2011. Bluefin tuna: Pacific Ocean. Available at http://iss-foundation.org/science/status-of-the-stocks/ [Accessed Jan2013].
IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on December 2012.
IATTC, 2012. Scientific meeting. La Jolla, California (USA), 15-18 May 2012. Available at http://www.iattc.org/Meetings/Meetings2012/May/PDFs/SAC-03-Meeting-report.pdf [Accessed Dec 2012].
WCPFC, 2012. The Western and Central Pacific tuna fishery: 2010 overview and status of stocks. scientific committee eighth regular session. 7-15 august 2012, Busan, Republic of Korea.
WCPFC, 2012. Overview of tuna fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, including economic conditions ? 2011. Scientific committee eighth regular session. 7-15 august 2012, Busan, Republic of Korea.
WCPFC, 2012. Draft conservation and management measure for Pacific bluefin tuna. Commission ninth regular session. 2-6 December 2012, Manilla, Phillipines. Available at http://www.wcpfc.int/doc/WCPFC9-2012-25/Northern-Committee-recommendation-Pacific-Bluefin [Accessed Jan 2013].
(Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 3 and below are included.)
Read what the consumer pages of the Good Fish Guide say about this species.
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