The precipitous decline of Atlantic bluefin tuna illustrates the overwhelming challenge of managing a high-value and highly migratory species in a highly impacted ocean. In addition to international fishing pressure from directed harvest and incidental take, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may further affect an already depleted Western Atlantic population. For years, international management entities have struggled to develop effective conservation strategies for Atlantic bluefin tuna. For example, during the 2009 negotiations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, parties considered a scientifically recommended catch quota of zero; and in 2010, parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna considered listing bluefin tuna as an endangered species. On the domestic stage, the difficulties of resurrecting former population sizes, despite ever-increasing harvest restrictions, led to a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity that has spurred the National Marine Fisheries Service to consider listing the species under the Endangered Species Act.
In this panel discussion, experts discussed the current state of bluefin tuna and domestic and international efforts to conserve the species. The panelists identified the key challenges associated with managing this high-value, highly migratory species and potential approaches to overcome them.