International Management of Pacific Bluefin Tuna Fisheries

In contrast to the long history of management in the Atlantic, there are no international regulations specific to bluefin tuna in the Pacific. No quotas, no bag limits, no minimum size – nothing. Tuna fisheries for yellowfin, bigeye, albacore, and skipjack have long dominated the Pacific and have thus been the focus of management.

That said, a framework for future international management of bluefin tuna has developed within the last five years. The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) is active in the eastern Pacific, and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) covers the rest of the ocean basin.

Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)

The IATTC was established via treaty in 1949, but the original convention text omitted bluefin tuna from the commission’s jurisdiction. However, the Antigua Conventionupdated the treaty in 2003, and the new language adds all tunas and tuna-like species caught in the eastern Pacific to the IATTC’s management purview. At this time, the IATTC’s bluefin management is limited to compiling catch data and performing cursory stock assessments.

Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)

The WCPFC is one of the newest international fisheries management organizations, having been established by treaty in 2000. It applies to all highly migratory fish stocks, including bluefin tuna. The U.S. has signed the treaty but has not yet formally ratified it. As with the IATTC, the WCPFC does not yet have any regulations specific to bluefin tuna.