JohnVolpe's concern about the possible bad effects of aquaculture (BioScience 55: 301) is interesting and raises important issues. However, I do wish to correct the record in two areas concerning bluefin tuna in the Pacific Ocean.
First, Volpe states that “the Pacific bluefin is thought also to be in steep decline.” However, information on the status of Pacific bluefin tuna, which is available on the Web site of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC; www.iattc.org/PDFFiles2/SAR2_bluefin_ENG.pdf), indicates no upward or downward trend in the catches of bluefin tuna during the 1952–1999 period (table 2.2a), which would not be the case if the stock were in steep decline. What is known about the status of bluefin tuna in the Pacific Ocean is summarized in section 5 of the online document.
Dr. Volpe goes on to say that “unlike its southern and Atlantic counterparts, this species does not benefit from oversight by an international regulatory body. Its population status is therefore largely unknown.” Pacific bluefin tuna are studied by the IATTC, the National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries (NRIFSF) of Japan, and several other organizations in Japan. In fact, the NRIFSF has greatly increased its research on this species during the last five years or so. Management of the fisheries is the shared responsibility of the IATTC and the newly created Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.
Neither the statement referring to the lack of international oversight, nor the statement that the “status of the species is largely unknown,” is justified.
The second correction addresses the assertion that because the capture vessel does not land the tuna (rather, the tuna is transferred to a pen), companies are able “to circumvent every regional and international regulation established to protect tuna populations.” In fact, vessels that catch Pacific bluefin tuna for ranching all carry observers, and all of the catches that are transferred to pens are recorded.