Overfishing Causes Pacific Bluefin Tuna Numbers to Drop 96%
A chef shows the head of a 489-pound bluefin tuna sold for the record sum of 155.4 million yen (some $1.7 million) in the New Year's first auction at Tsukiji Market. The successful bid was about three times the record 56.49 million yen bid in last year's auction. Photo: Kimimasa Mayama / EPA
Just three days after a single Pacific bluefin tuna fetched a jaw-dropping $1.76 million at a fish auction in Tokyo, Japan, scientists released a new stock assessment for this species—and the findings are shocking. According to the report, the Pacific bluefin population has dropped 96.4 percent from unfished levels due to decades of overfishing.
“These new data show that the population of Pacific bluefin is a small fraction of what it used to be, and is in danger of all but disappearing,” said Amanda Nickson, who directs global tuna conservation at the Pew Environment Group.
Despite these findings, countries are still fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna in its only known spawning and nursery areas in the western Pacific Ocean. The current management measures in the western Pacific do not limit overall catches and fail to ensure the long-term sustainability of this fishery.
Slightly better management exists in the eastern Pacific. At its annual meeting last June, the body responsible for managing Pacific bluefin off the west coast of the Americas, adopted the first catch limits for this species. This conservation measure caused the fishery to close earlier than planned when the limit was exceeded in August. While those actions were encouraging, they are not nearly enough.
“The Pew Environment Group believes the most responsible course of action is to immediately suspend the fishery until significant steps are taken to reverse this decline,” said Nickson.
“This latest assessment shows just how bad the situation really is for this top predator,” said Nickson. “This highly valuable fish is being exploited at almost every stage of its life cycle, and more than 90 percent of Pacific bluefin caught are juveniles, taken before they have reproduced. Further, fishing continues on the spawning grounds of this heavily overfished species.”
“We call on the major countries fishing this species—Japan, Mexico, South Korea, and the United States—to immediately take necessary conservation and management actions for Pacific bluefin,” said Nickson.
Measures needed include science-based catch limits, and major reductions in the catches of juvenile bluefin by implementing size limits across the Pacific and preventing fishing on bluefin spawning grounds. Robust monitoring and enforcement measures must also be implemented to ensure that the rules are followed.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
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