Posted by: carlsafina | Monday, January 7 08

Managing Tuna Into Extinction

Outgoing Fisheries Service director William T. Hogarth writes in The Washington Post on December 29 ( 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


  1. Dear Carl,
    Your books have inspired me–thank you…This recent post helps me to realize once again the impact that we as citizens of the US, MUST take action to save our ocean planet. Best wishes, Christine

  2. Carl,

    I recommended to Robert Scoble, blogger number uno who is addressing Davos, that he suggest to them that you be invited there next year.

    I just finished the 2007 Voyages Annual Report. Thanks for all your hard work.

  3. Dear Carl

    As the Blue Ocean e-mail tells me:

    More Blues for the Bluefin

    The New York Times reported yesterday that most Bluefin tuna sold in a survey of New York City restaurants and stores contained hazardous amounts of mercury.

    Sounds like good news to me.

    So why don’t we spend a lot of money here, and especially in JAPAN, telling them that Bluefin Tuna is poisoned by MERCURY?
    The Japanese are especially concerned about mercury poisoning.
    If you wanted to be really innovative, go to Japan and test some of the tuna and other large predators and whale meat in the Japanese fish markets. Bet a lot of it is contaminated with mercury and other nasties.
    Now that’s a program I would support.

  4. Re: Bruce (blog above):”Test some of the [Japanese] tuna…Bet a lot of it is contaminated with mercury…Now that’s a program I would support.”
    SUPPORT, INDEED! I live in Japan–Safina’s book Song For the Blue Ocean is available in Japanese as Umi no Uta ( Carl is telling us in English all the time–If only his concern could be heard/read in Japan! Umi no Uta in need of
    better distribution! Carl, endless thanks.
    Anyone reading Safina should see The Book of Sharks, written/illustrated by Richard Ellis–(publ. 1989, 3rd print. 1996). Sharks now endangered too?! Sharks: “Carl, help! endless thanks!”

  5. Dear Carl,

    I have just been reading with interest through your articles about Bluefin Tuna.

    Seeing with my own eyes the fishing and farming results over the last 3 years in the Mediterranien makes me already sad. 3 years ago fish below 120 kg would have been left free to grow up. Last year fish has been kept in farming cages with less than 100 kg.

    Since voices getting louder to stop fishing Bluefin Tuna, a new market came up to, finding an excuse to keep on catching tuna, it’s called Marine Adventure Park.
    However, left from plans of building a hugh area is a transport cage just 50 meters in diameter, belonging to one of the local fish farms.
    A large amount of divers and snorklers are be shipped to the cage every day to dive in the cage and also feed the Tuna.

    This let the idea come up, that the entrance fee is used to keep the Tuna a little longer in the cage and they still end up on a plate and not being left free in the end of a summer saeson.

    Another fact is, that Bluefin Tuna is a very sensitive fish which is dying in captivity anyway. The amount of fish surviving a busy summer with divers, snorklers and natural events will be so little, that the dying fish during the summer pay’s for the effort.

    To make more people aware of the fact, that our Bluefin Tuna is about do disapear, I would like to have permission to reprint part of your articles.

    Many Thanks


  6. The focus should remain on regulating the commercial fishing industry. Here in
    the US we seemed to continue to place more stringent restrictions on the
    recreational fisherman and we all kno the impact by commercial fishery is the
    real danger to the destruction of the bluefin tuna.

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