Pons et al. Authors’ Note
In our paper that came out last week in Fish and Fisheries we examine the current status of large commercial tuna and billfish stocks. For tunas, 8 of 22 stocks have biomass (B) below the biomass that produces the maximum sustainable yield (BMSY) and three (southern bluefin, Western Atlantic bluefin and Pacific bluefin) are overfished according to the definition used commonly in the US (B < 0.5BMSY). Most tunas have sustainable biomass and fishing mortality rates (left panel, Fig. 1), with median B/BMSY of 1.12 and with fishing rates lower than those that would lead to MSY (median F/FMSY of 0.81). Billfishes are in slightly worse shape than tunas (right panel, Fig. 1), with a median B/BMSY of 0.85 and F/FMSY of 1.01. Nine out of 18 billfish stocks have biomass below BMSY and four (Eastern Atlantic sailfish, Western Atlantic sailfish, white marlin and Western Pacific striped marlin) have biomass below 0.5BMSY. k
In general, fishing mortality has declined for most of tuna and billfish stocks in the last decade (Fig. 2) due to an improvement in management by the tuna’s Regional Fishery Management Organizations (tRFMOs). In our paper, we showed that the implementation of total allowable catches (TACs) to limit catches is the management measure that leads to the fastest rebuilding of overfished tuna and billfish stocks. In addition, limits in fishing capacity, seasonal closures and minimum size regulations were also important in reducing fishing pressure but not as important as TACs in increasing stock biomass. Although TACs have been implemented by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas and the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, only recently has a TAC been set for Pacific bluefin tuna to control the intensive fishing pressure that this stock is experiencing. We hope to see signs of rebuilding for this stock in the near future.
The main conclusion of our paper is that the current status of tunas and billfishes is influenced by many factors, but with strong management and enforcement, overfished stocks have the capacity to rebuild and many of them are already rebuilt (e.g. North Atlantic swordfish, Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna and Atlantic bigeye tuna).