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Tuna Fisheries
gourmet articlesarchivetuna fisheries

Tuna fisheries are one of the most important fisheries in the world? Many countries are nutritionally and economically dependent on the health of the tuna fisheries. Unfortunately the demand for more and more fish combined with increasing technology in the fishing industry enabling them to catch more and more fish, has led to the decline of many fish species including tuna.

There are three major conservation issues to consider:

- Over fishing - Simply, this is just taking too many fish out of the ocean for the populations to maintain sustainable levels. If the fish are being removed at a faster rate than they can reproduce, eventually the populations will disappear.

- By catch - This is all of the "other" unwanted animals caught in nets. For example, for every one pound of shrimp caught, between 4 and 10 pounds of other animals is also caught and thrown back into the ocean either dead or dying. By catch includes fish, sea turtles, birds, etc...

- Habitat destruction - Increasing development by the worlds growing population can be very harmful to fish populations. Coastal areas around the world are very rapidly growing -at the same time; coastal areas are often feeding, breeding and nursery habitats for valuable commercial fish. Any type of development can lead to problems - siltation, increased pollution, runoff, that harm fish. Also, certain fishing methods destroy habitat in the process of catching fish.

There are 13 species of tuna - six are intensively fished on a commercial basis: skipjack, northern blue fin, southern blue fin, big eye, yellow fin (Ahi), and albacore.

Albacore - Almost all albacore in the US is from Pacific fisheries. Here they are managed at sustainable levels with hook-and-line methods (little to no by catch). In the North Atlantic, they are considered over fished, and in the South Atlantic, they are considered stable.

Skipjack - Populations still large and don't seem to be in decline.

Yellowfin/ahi - The populations are relatively healthy and stable, but they are caught using long-lines and purse-seines, which are two fishing methods with very high by catch rates. If they are troll-caught there is little to no by catch.

Blue fin - The Atlantic blue fin catch is said to be only 10% of what it was 10 years ago, due to over fishing and poor management. Northern Pacific blue fin seem to be in trouble primarily because of over fishing and high catches of juveniles. Southern Pacific blue fin are also considered Over fished.

Big eye - There isn't enough data on these to really determine their status. The juvenile big eye is very difficult to distinguish from juvenile yellow fin tuna. There also are no regulations for big eye in the Pacific and in the Atlantic there are only minimum size regulations.

Author Sonja Tiegs
Conservation Programs Coordinator
Shedd Aquarium Chicago

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