The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has put Atlantic bigeye tuna on the overfishing list in its annual Status of the Stocks update.
It means the harvest rate is higher right now than the rate that produces its maximum sustainable yield — the largest long-term average catch that can be taken from a stock under prevailing environmental and fishery conditions.
It could also mean potential reductions in the total allowable catch will be implemented.
Jennie Lyons, from NOAA Fisheries Public Affairs, said the listing is based on the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas’ (ICCAT) most recent accepted stock assessment that showed fishing mortality rate in 2014 exceeded the overfishing threshold by 28 percent.
While there is both recreational and commercial fisheries here for bigeye, it pales in comparison to major baitboat fisheries in Ghana, Senegal, the Canary Islands, Madeira and the Azores off the west coast of Africa.
Bigeye tuna can reach 5 ½-feet lengths and weights of over 200 pounds.
“U.S. fishermen harvest about 1 percent of the overall quota, so it is important that we work with our international partners to end overfishing and rebuild this stock,” Lyons said.
ICCAT, formed by a treaty in 1966, manages this stock. ICCAT is as an inter-governmental fishery organization responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Lyons said the population of Atlantic bigeye tuna continues to slowly increase since a rebuilding plan’s implementation in 1999.
“The stock is now estimated at 67 percent of its target level, so rebuilding measures will remain in place until it reaches that target level,” Lyons said.