New Study Reveals Problems for Tuna and Billfish

Written by on July 25, 2011 in Policy & Ocean Law

Emily Tripp
Senior Writer

A new study presents alarming assessments of economically important fish.

Spanish Mackerel. Photo Credit: NOAA

Spanish Mackerel. Photo Credit: NOAA

Top global fisheries experts provided an analysis of 61 species of “scombrids” (tunas, bonitos, mackerels, swordfish and marlins and more) that classified seven of these species as threatened with extinction and four as “near threatened” for the ICUN Red List of Threatened Species.  The ICUN Red List is the most widely accepted system for classifying extinction risk.

University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science associate professor and assistant director of NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) David Die and colleagues evaluated the species population and conservation status.

“The IUCN assessments provide us with a different view of the conservation status of marine resources, when compared to that provided by fishery management organizations,” said Die.

Die has studied highly migratory tuna and billfish for more than 12 years and regularly contributes to assessments of Atlantic billfish and Atlantic tropical tunas.

While nearly two thirds of these species are in the “least concern” category of the ICUN Red List, there is growing concern that some stocks of scombrid and billfish species are being heavily overfished and there is not enough protection to prevent overexploitation driven by high prices.  The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 25 percent of the world’s commercially important marine fish stocks are overfished or depleted.

“Our study reaches similar conclusions to those from the FAO,” said Die. “Approximately one quarter of the worldwide fish stocks and species of “scombrids” are in an undesirable state of sustainable exploitation or conservation.”

The study was published in the July 15 issue of Science Magazine (volume 333, page 291).  The full title is “High Value and Long Life—Double Jeopardy for Tunas and Billfishes”




Copyright ©  2011 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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  1. Tom of the Sweetwater Sea says:

    Can you please point us to the actual study? Thanks.

  2. Emily says:

    Absolutely. It was published in the July 15 issue of Science Magazine (volume 333, page 291). The full title is “High Value and Long Life—Double Jeopardy for Tunas and Billfishes”

    If you are an AAUS member or subscribe to Science Mag then you can find the story here.