Marine Zoning: Saving Tuna While Improving Fisheries

Written by on November 14, 2012 in Policy & Ocean Law
Bigeye tuna on ice.

Bigeye tuna on ice. Photo credit: NOAA.

A new study has determined that ‘marine zoning’ in the Pacific Ocean could help overfished bigeye tuna while improving local fisheries.

Marine zoning is different than other protection measures because it doesn’t just involve closing off certain areas to fishing altogether.  The marine zones are areas where different kinds of fishing activities are allowed in different areas.  Scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, and Collecte Localisation Satellites have found this to be a much more effective method of conservation.

Using ecosystem and population models, Dr. John Sibert of the Joint Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Research and colleagues found that the most effective measures were to:

  1. restrict longline fishing in tuna-spawning areas
  2. manage the use of fish-aggregating devices, like moored or drifting buoys, in purse-seine areas

“We found that simply closing areas off to fishing doesn’t work, because the boats just move their operations to neighboring zones and fish even harder.  It’s going to need a combination of approaches,” said Dr. Sibert.

“The model will help people evaluate alternative policies to manage tropical tuna fisheries.  Our predictions can help countries estimate how effective conservation measures might be, relative to any economic effects, and tailor measures to suit their goals.  The advantage of this approach is that effects can be estimated locally, as well as for the stock as a whole.”

This study is a step in the right direction, but the researchers note that rebuilding the bigeye-tuna fishery will take at least 15 years.

Bigeye tuna.

Bigeye tuna. Photo credit: NOAA.

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Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today 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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