WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 30, 2008) -- Next week marks a pivotal moment for Eastern Pacific tuna. The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), the international body charged with the conservation and management of tuna and associated species in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, will meet in San Diego from Nov. 2-7 to consider conservation measures for vulnerable tuna populations. Whether this 16-nation Commission will act to protect declining tuna stocks, or once again demonstrate their impotence to do so, remains to be seen. The fate of Pacific tuna stocks hangs in the balance.
Tuna populations are showing signs of trouble in the eastern tropical Pacific. Bigeye tuna populations are falling to low levels, the average size of captured yellowfin tuna is in decline and high levels of very small juvenile tuna are being caught accidentally. The Commission's own scientific staff have issued repeated warnings about these signs and urged nations to collectively adopt measures that include establishment of closure periods for overall stock recoveries, special closure areas where fish are most reproductively active and limits on annual catches. Despite five attempts in two years, the Commission has yet to agree on a single measure to address overfishing.
Too many fishermen chasing too few fish is a scenario that has been repeated for decades as a prelude to collapsed fisheries. Compounding the overcapacity problem are technological advancements which allow fishermen to locate and capture ever scarcer fish. Unfortunately, market forces exacerbate the problem; as stocks decline, fish prices rise and the pressure to expand fishing opportunities and cash in on the bonanza increases. Not surprisingly, short-term economic gain routinely trumps the long term sustainability and profitability of the fishery.
Given the different priorities and negotiating positions of member states, the consensus required to adopt unanimous binding resolutions is
|Contact: Scott Henderson|