Policy ForumConservation

High Value and Long Life—Double Jeopardy for Tunas and Billfishes

Science  15 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6040, pp. 291-292
DOI: 10.1126/science.1208730

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Summary

There is growing concern that in spite of the healthy status of several epipelagic (living near the surface) fish stocks (1), some scombrid (tunas, bonitos, mackerels, and Spanish mackerels) and billfish (swordfish and marlins) species are heavily overfished and that there is a lack of resolve to protect against overexploitation driven by high prices (25). Many populations are exploited by multinational fisheries whose regulation, from a political perspective, is exceedingly difficult. Thus, assessment and management is complicated and sometimes ineffective (4). Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) were created to manage and conserve scombrids and billfishes because of their transnational distributions and widespread economic importance (6). However, species-specific catch data for many scombrids and billfishes are not collected or are aggregated with other species. Even for the larger tunas, for which relatively rich data exist, population assessments and data are complex (1) and are difficult to combine across RFMOs, which prompts a need for alternative means of assessment.