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Keywords:

  • Atlantic;
  • bluefin tuna;
  • collapse;
  • conservation;
  • exploitation;
  • management;
  • Mediterranean;
  • recovery;
  • recruitment;
  • reproduction

Abstract

The abundance of bluefin tuna, Thunnus thynnus, in the east Atlantic and Mediterranean has declined in recent decades. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the regional bluefin tuna management authority, has developed a plan to promote recovery by 2022, while still permitting fishing to continue during the period 2008–2010. Here we predict that the adult population in 2011 will likely be 75% lower relative to 2005 and that quotas in some intervening years will allow the fishery to capture legally all of the adult fish. Population demographics (proportion of older fish and repeat spawners in population) indicate that buffering capacity against years of poor reproduction has been reduced. This population is at risk of collapse (90% decline in adult biomass within three generations, the criterion used by the IUCN for defining populations as Critically Endangered), even under the currently agreed recovery plan, unless new conservation measures are implemented in the next few years.