Saving Tuna

January 23, 2022
By Damond Benningfield

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Yellowfin tuna recently became a species of least concern. Credit: Elias Levy, CC BY 2.0

For fans of sushi, sashimi, and tuna steaks on the grill, we have some good news. Four species of tuna have rebounded in recent years, lowering the threat of extinction.

An agency of the United Nations monitors the health of more than 138,000 species of lifein the oceans and on land. And every few years, it takes a new look at each species. Many species are in worse shape than evermostly as the result of human activities. But a few have improved.

This year’s assessment, for example, found an uptick in the populations of four species of tuna: Atlantic bluefin, southern bluefin, albacore, and yellowfin. They were moved into categories with a lower threat of extinction than before. Three of them, in fact, were moved into a category called “least concern.”

Much of the change was the result of better management of commercial fisheries. The world’s nations did a better job of enforcing restrictions on how many fish commercial fleets could catch. That shows that well-planned and -executed recovery efforts can pay off.

Not all tuna are in great shape, thougheven within the same species. The population of Atlantic bluefin on the eastern side of the Atlantic has grown in recent decades, for example, while the population on the western sidearound the United Stateshas been cut in half. And the Pacific bluefin population is down to less than five percent of what it once wasan indication that there’s still a lot of work to be done to protect life in the oceans.