On one hand a group of Canadian scientists, with an eye to after-effects of the BP oil spill, are reviewing the possibility of such a listing. Data released in November show at least 20 percent of this year’s juvenile bluefin tuna likely died in the spill.
In the meantime, Prince Edward Island fishermen caught the entire 2010 provincial quota in two days-October 5 and 6–according to Walter Bruce, who chairs the Tuna Committee of the Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association (PEIFA) and who fishes out of North Lake Harbour.
The annual quotas are set by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT). The Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for 2010 was 132 metric tons, down from the 2009 TAC of 138 metric tons and the 2008 TAC of 150 metric tons.
Bruce said that there were 296 P.E.I. boats registered to fish.
Reports from Nova Scotia indicated that fishermen there also fished their quota in two days earlier in the season.
The other quotas, all in metric tons, were Gulf Nova Scotia, 50; South West Nova Scotia, 99; St. Margaret’s Bay [Nova Scotia], 53; Gulf New Brunswick, 18; Newfoundland & Labrador, 62; and Quebec, 20.
P.E.I. fishermen are requesting an increased quota from ICCAT for next year. In support of the request Bruce provided facts and figures going back to 1998.
Summing up, Bruce said, “Each and every rebuilding plan that has been adopted since the 1998 20-year rebuilding was put in place has adopted a TAC [Total Allowable Catch] level equivalent to that recommended by the SCRS [Standing Committee on Research and Statistics] based on the ‘low recruitment scenario’ and has stated that the commission has adopted a rebuilding plan with a 50 percent or higher probability of rebuilding the stocks to a level that would support fishing at Msy [Maximum Sustainable Yield]’}
He continued, “Based on the ‘high recruitment scenario’ the stock would not be rebuilt, even if there had been no fishing in the western Atlantic for bluefin by 2019. This scenario was based on four data point from the early 1970s that indicated that recruitment was much higher than it has been in the last four decades since. Even the SCRS has stated that ‘it is highly unlikely that recruitment would return to these levels in the foreseeable future.'”
Bruce concluded, “We have followed the scientific advice, the stock has been rebuilt based on the latest assessment and the management path that was chosen in 1998. “
For its part ICCAT issued its own report indicating that Atlantic bluefin tuna numbers are rising, but that the numbers are still much lower than what they have been.
The biennial report shows numbers up as much as 10 percent over 2008. The report also noted that 2003 was a great year for tuna births, and these fish are now getting old enough to spawn.
In a related development, the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species last March voted down a measure that would have banned bluefin tuna exports-move that would have devastated Atlantic Canadian fishermen, according to sources all across the region.
“You could probably hear the collective sigh of relief from here over in Eastport when the ban was voted down,” said then PEIFA exeecutive director Ed Frenette at the time. And the vote was applauded by Canadian Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea, who’s from P.E.I.
“We’re very encouraged by the preliminary results because Canada’s position all along has been that that this species should be managed through a regional fish management program, which we have in ICCAT,” Shea said. Adding, “Canada’s management plan is one of the best in the world.”
But for this season Walter Bruce said simply, “It was a very successful year.”