NOAA Irons Tuna Quota

by Mike Crowe and Staff


A foot long young-of-the-year bluefin tuna that spawned in the Gulf of Mexico in May and was caught 50 miles off the coast of Virginia that same year. Using relative pesticide and PCB residue samples University of New Hampshire scientists have determined that 33% to 83% of the juvenile bluefin tuna in the Mid Atlantic Bight have eastern Atlantic origins. This supports earlier data from tracking tags and isot0pe signals from ear bones.  Rich Ruais Photo

NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco’s decision to cut tuna quota at the International Committee for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT), is being criticized by tuna fishermen for courting politics and disregarding science. Fishermen were expecting a modest 425 MT increase in the western quota including the United States quota based on recent scientific data and what they were seeing in the water.

Veering from the 12-year plan for biomass levels that have been achieved, Lubchenco had NOAA change to a higher recruitment goal. Fishermen feel they struggled for 12 years to get to the goal, and when they got there, NOAA moved the goal posts.

 The shift to higher recruitment goals is an attempt to reach recruitment levels of the 1950s and 1960s. However, some scientists believe there has been a regime shift in the ecosystem limiting recruitment to recent levels. Higher water temperatures, floods of fresh water into spawning areas, changes in forage, and the distribution of spawn are all different now.


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