NOAA Irons Tuna Quota
by Mike Crowe and Staff
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.