With the conservation measures required by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in place, technically the Atlantic and Mediterranean Bluefin Tuna is now no longer endangered. Which is great news, but we can not afford to take our eyes off the situation.
Bluefin tuna stocks have been badly managed in the past with a lack of regulation and enforcement; contributing to this has been its extremely high market value. Research indicates that catches of Bluefin Tuna from the East Atlantic and Mediterranean were seriously under-reported between the mid-1990s through to 2007. The ICCAT Scientific Committee views this lack of compliance with TAC (Total allowable Catches) and under-reporting of the catch as a major cause of stock decline during that period.
However, despite all the rules and regulations in place today, the tuna fleet in some Mediterranean countries are still cheating the system and poaching tuna for commercial gain. France’s reputation in the tuna fishing industry is highly regulated and respected; the 17-strong French fishing fleet is considered among the most talented in the Mediterranean. Other countries have a more dubious reputation, thereby putting an incredible species at risk and undermining the ICCAT process and all those who care about Bluefin Tuna and sustainable fishing.
The ICCAT system isn't perfect, however it is the system we have. ICCAT has woken up to some of its' flaws; they are committed to revising some of their antiquated stock assessment protocols and in order to address illegal fishing, are testing a system to electronically track caught fish from the ocean to the market, which aims to be fully implemented this year.
On the whole, the Bluefin Tuna’s situation has improved over the last three to four years, so much so that the scientists monitoring the population are quietly optimistic. Some fisheries biologists believe that Atlantic Bluefin populations, if allowed to rebound, could grow to five times their present size and with wise management could yield healthy quotas forever.
As consumers how can you help Bluefin Tuna stocks to grow?
We recommend you ONLY buy your Bluefin Tuna from reputable fishmongers, and you can also demand to see the ICCAT certificate that accompanies every individual tuna and the individually stamped tail ring on each fish. If your supplier can not produce these items, their stock is probably from illegally poached tuna outside of the fishing quotas, please don't buy the tuna from them and, more importantly, explain to them why you won't.
Just so you all know what you should be looking for - all certified tunas should have an individual band like this around their tails, which is put on them by the Maritime Police when they board.
And the ICCAT certificate is 2 pages (Stamped by the Maritime Police) and on the second page you will find the corresponding tail band number. Don't buy the Tuna if it doesn't have this.