Those of us who are fans of bluefin tuna, also known as fatty tuna or toro in Japanese restaurants, know that it’s delicious. Unfortunately, what many people don’t know is that the world ocean population of bluefin tuna is in danger.
A report in The Huffington Post mentions bycatch as a crucial threat to Bluefin tuna. While overfishing is a much talked about problem, the issue of bycatch is less publicized. A process intended to snare swordfish and yellowfin tuna called pelagic longline fishing, in which miles of baited hooks are strung along wires, is also catching many bluefin tuna unintentionally.
Other species, including dolphins and sea turtles, are also caught accidentally by these open ocean wires.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently published data showing that the total tonnage of wasted bluefin tuna caught with pelagic longline fishing in 2012 was up 70 percent from the 2011 value, having climbed to a shocking 239.5 metric tons.
In response, the NOAA has suspended pelagic longline fishing for bluefin tuna for the remainder of 2013, starting on June 25th. This does not mean that fishermen can prevent bluefin tuna from being caught accidentally, only that if they are caught on the bait hooks fishermen must throw them back, dead or alive.