Pew Environment Group

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Pew Environment Group

Washington, DC, United States
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News Article | January 9, 2013

The bluefin tuna, which has been endangered for several years and has the misfortune to be prized by Japanese sushi lovers, has suffered a catastrophic decline in stocks in the Northern Pacific Ocean, of more than 96%, according to research published on Wednesday. Equally concerning is the fact that about 90% of specimens currently fished are young fish that have not yet reproduced. Last week, one fish sold in Japan for more than £1m, reflecting the rarity of the bluefin tuna and the continued demand for its fatty flesh, which is sold for high prices across Asia and in some high-end western restaurants. Bluefin tuna is one of nature's most successful ocean inhabitants, the biggest of the tuna and a top-of-the-food-chain fish with few natural predators. But the advent of industrial fishing methods and a taste for the species among rich sushi devotees have led to its being hunted to the brink of extinction. If current trends continue, the species will soon be functionally extinct in the Pacific, and the frozen bodies held in a few high-security Asian warehouses will be the last gasp the species. More than nine out of 10 of the species recently caught were too young to have reproduced, meaning they may have been the last generation of the bluefin tuna. Amanda Nickson, of the Pew Environment Group, which produced the latest report, said: "There is no logical way a fishery can have such a high level of fishing on juveniles and continue." She said that urgent measures needed to be taken in order to preserve stocks and allow them to recover. "The population of Pacific bluefin is a small fraction of what it used to be and is in danger of all but disappearing," she said. "It's a highly valuable natural commodity and people naturally want to fish something that gives them such a high return." She called for fishing of the species to be halted as a matter of urgency. Although there are measures to manage the exploitation of bluefin tuna in the Atlantic, and some measures in the eastern Pacific, the main spawning ground for Pacific bluefin tuna in the western part of that ocean is not managed. The main fishing fleets exploiting the stocks are from Japan, Mexico, South Korea and the US, and the high value of the few remaining fish is a further encouragement to fishermen to hunt down the last of the species. A single specimen could make the catchers rich for life, and without catch limits and rigorous enforcement, there is nothing to stop fishermen pursuing them. Nickson said: "This assessment shows just how bad the situation really is for this top predator. This highly valuable fish is being exploited at almost every stage of its life cycle. Fishing continues on the spawning grounds of this heavily overfished tuna species." About two-thirds of the world's tuna comes from the Pacific, but bluefin tuna accounts for only about 1% of this. For years, the species was neglected in fisheries management, being lumped in with other more prolific species. But in recent years it has become clear that it was in danger, from overfishing and its own biology - being bigger than other tuna, it takes longer to come to sexual maturity, which scientists estimate takes between four and eight years, which limits its reproductive ability and makes it more vulnerable to the predations of modern industrialised fishing techniques.

Woinarski J.C.Z.,Charles Darwin University | Legge S.,Charles Darwin University | Legge S.,Australian National University | Fitzsimons J.A.,The Nature Conservancy | And 10 more authors.
Conservation Letters | Year: 2011

This article provides a context to, attempts an explanation for, and proposes a response to the recent demonstration of rapid and severe decline of the native mammal fauna of Kakadu National Park. This decline is consistent with, but might be more accentuated than, declines reported elsewhere in northern Australia; however, such a comparison is constrained by the sparse information base across this region. Disconcertingly, the decline has similarities with the earlier phase of mammal extinctions that occurred elsewhere in Australia. We considered four proximate factors (individually or interactively) that might be driving the observed decline: habitat change, predation (by feral cats), poisoning (by invading cane toads), and novel disease. No single factor readily explains the current decline. The current rapid decline of mammals in Kakadu National Park and northern Australia suggests that the fate of biodiversity globally might be even bleaker than evident in recent reviews, and that the establishment of conservation reserves alone is insufficient to maintain biodiversity. This latter conclusion is not new; but the results reported here further stress the need to manage reserves far more intensively, purposefully, and effectively, and to audit regularly their biodiversity conservation performance. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Redford K.H.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Amato G.,American Museum of Natural History | Baillie J.,Zoological Society of London | Beldomenico P.,Wildlife Conservation Society | And 16 more authors.
BioScience | Year: 2011

The conservation of species is one of the foundations of conservation biology. Successful species conservation has often been defined as simply the avoidance of extinction. We argue that this focus, although important, amounts to practicing conservation at the emergency room door, and will never be a sufficient approach to conserving species. Instead, we elaborate a positive definition of species conservation on the basis of six attributes and propose a categorization of different states of species conservation using the extent of human management and the degree to which each of the attributes is conserved. These states can be used to develop a taxonomy of species recovery that acknowledges there are multiple stable points defined by ecological and social factors. With this approach, we hope to contribute to a new, optimistic conservation biology that is not based on underambitious goals and that seeks to create the conditions under which Earth's biological systems can thrive. © 2011 by American Institute of Biological Sciences. All rights reserved.

Tissot B.N.,Washington State University | Best B.A.,Us Agency For International Development | Borneman E.H.,University of Houston | Bruckner A.W.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | And 14 more authors.
Marine Policy | Year: 2010

As the world's largest importer of marine ornamental species for the aquaria, curio, home décor, and jewelry industries, the United States has an opportunity to leverage its considerable market power to promote more sustainable trade and reduce the effects of ornamental trade stress on coral reefs worldwide. Evidence indicates that collection of some coral reef animals for these trades has caused virtual elimination of local populations, major changes in age structure, and promotion of collection practices that destroy reef habitats. Management and enforcement of collection activities in major source countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines remain weak. Strengthening US trade laws and enforcement capabilities combined with increasing consumer and industry demand for responsible conservation can create strong incentives for improving management in source countries. This is particularly important in light of the March 2010 failure of the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to take action on key groups of corals. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Herman L.M.,The Dolphin Institute | Herman L.M.,University of Hawaii at Manoa | Pack A.A.,The Dolphin Institute | Pack A.A.,University of Hawaii at Hilo | And 5 more authors.
Marine Mammal Science | Year: 2011

From a database of approximately 5,000 Hawaiian humpback whales identified photographically between 1976 and 2010, we extracted 71 males and 39 females having resighting spans of 10 or more years, from first to most recent sighting. Findings included: (1) the male-biased sex ratio was like that found in breeding grounds worldwide; (2) the mean span for males of 20.7 yr (maximum = 32 yr) did not differ significantly from the mean of 19.8 yr (maximum = 29 yr) for females, but males were seen in significantly more years during their spans than were females; (3) the mean number of females seen with and without calf across 11 three-year intervals from 1977 to 2009 did not differ significantly; (4) the calving rate for the 39 females was 0.48 and seven females produced two to eight calves over spans of 22-26 yr; (5) females attracted significantly more escorts in years without calf than in years with calf; (6) individuals showed great diversity in the social units they occupied over their sighting spans, but with the most frequently observed unit for both sexes being the trio of mother, calf, and escort. Males were also observed frequently in competitive groups centered about a female without calf. © 2010 by the Society for Marine Mammalogy.

McCrea-Strub A.,University of British Columbia | Zeller D.,University of British Columbia | Rashid Sumaila U.,University of British Columbia | Nelson J.,Pew Environment Group | And 2 more authors.
Marine Policy | Year: 2011

While the recurrent cost of managing marine protected areas (MPAs) has been documented and estimated, there has been virtually no attempt to quantify the cost of establishing MPAs in the first place. This lack of attention is likely the result of the complexity of the process, involving often uncoordinated efforts of a multitude of governmental and non-governmental entities over a protracted period of time with no clear start and end-point. Using information gathered from a representative subset of MPAs worldwide, this paper presents the first attempt to identify and describe the various components, and explore potential predictors of the total funds spent in the course of establishment. The thirteen MPAs studied vary in size (from <1 to >360,000km2), location (including near- and offshore in both developed and developing countries), objectives and degree of protection. Variation in MPA start-up costs is shown to be most significantly related to both MPA size and the duration of the establishment phase. Development of a method to estimate the potential cost of establishing proposed MPAs should play a crucial role in the conservation planning process. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

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