Outgoing Fisheries Service director William T. Hogarth writes in The Washington Post on December 29 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/28/AR2007122802570.html?sub=AR) that his agency “has followed recommendations from top scientists for managing the bluefin tuna.”
Not so. Since 1982, when scientists recommended a “near-zero” quota, fisheries managers in his agency and internationally have often set much higher quotas than scientists have recommended. His agency ignores many top scientists consistently calling for reduced quotas and closed spawning areas. Bottom line: by ignoring real science he and other managers have failed so acutely that the U.S. catch has dropped 90% inside of five years. A very real threat of extinction now looms for one of the largest fish in the sea, while fishermen go out of business.
Yes, European countries’ fishing is out of control. But that’s not why our fish are disappearing. Some of the science Hogarth and his advisors are ignoring is tagging data showing that the fish originating in U.S. waters tend to stay here. Only about 10 percent of our fish go east. Meanwhile, many European fish come here. That European “subsidy” means our own fish are in even sharper decline than the 90-percent drop in U.S. catch suggests. What Hogarth calls the “few bluefin” caught in the Gulf of Mexico spawning area are the last few breeders in our population.
Hogarth’s agency insists on allowing boats to fish there because pointing fingers at Europe’s mismanagement is easier than taking action. Letting our boats go out of business and our giant tuna go extinct is negligent management that ignores science, sense, and the law. Dr. Hogarth is missing his opportunity to do the right thing before he leaves the agency.
For more on the beleaguered Bluefin, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/23/AR2007122301515.html