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Why efforts to conserve Pacific Bluefin tuna aren't working

Emilio Morenatti / AP

Overfishing in the Pacific Ocean has decimated bluefin tuna — the population is now less than 3% of what it was before commercial fishing began. A new study shows why conservation efforts aren't working: they were focused on the wrong part of the Pacific.

What they found: Bluefin tuna spawn in the western Pacific, where most commercial fishing takes place and conservation efforts have been focused. But, most younger bluefin tuna actually spend several years in the eastern Pacific before migrating west, so the lack of conservation efforts there is the most likely culprit for the failure to bring back the population.

"Stakeholders on both sides of the Pacific need to enact comprehensive, science-based management measures to rebuild the stock of bluefin tuna," the authors wrote in Science. Conservation groups and commercial fishing interests alike "need to better understand the life history of this fish in order to inform fishing management policies."

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