Sign up for myFT Daily Digest to be the first to know about environmental news.
In the deep waters of the North Atlantic, a rare sight is becoming more common: bluefin tuna.
Fisherman Ben King recalls seeing one of the giant fish – which can weigh more than £ 1,000 – off the coast of Cornwall.
“It looked like a huge alien that jumped out of the water,” said King, founder of seafood company Pesky Fish. “You just don’t get fish that size in our waters, so it had to be tuna.”
Formerly classified as endangered, the Atlantic fin is now the species of “least concern”, according to a new “red list” update from International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Four of the seven tuna species on the IUCN list are recovering thanks to better fisheries management and enforcement against illegal fishing.
IUCN says fishing quotas and protected areas are responsible for recovery, although many other marine animals remain under threat.
“We can turn things around, even with a highly commercial species like tuna,” said Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of the IUCN Red List unit.
The IUCN is launching a new “green status” list to record endangered species, to mark its four-year gathering in Marseille this weekend, one of the largest environmental conferences attended by governments and nonprofits since the pandemic.
$ 42 billion
The value of global tuna catch turnover
Tuna is one of the most valuable types of seafood, worth about $ 42 billion a year in trade, as part of an annual seafood market worth about $ 150 billion, according to the study Charitable Funds Pew.
Tuna numbers declined in the second half of the 20th century, and are only now beginning to increase, for certain species in certain areas, following measures introduced in the 2000s.
“One of the challenges of tuna management is that they are highly migratory species,” he said Mark Zimring, Director of the Great Fisheries Program at The Nature Conservancy. “They are also an important indicator species because they are at the top of the food chain.”
One of the most successful programs to regulate tuna fishing has been in the western and central Pacific, says Zimring, a region sometimes referred to as “OPEC tuna fishing” because it produces about half of the world’s canned tuna. Eight countries, including small island states such as Kiribati and the Marshall Islands, have joined forces to limit licenses.
According to the IUCN, species of Atlantic blonde, southern blonde, albacore and yellowfin have experienced improvements since the 2000s. As for the Atlantic blonde, her population in the Mediterranean has grown by 22 percent in the last four decades, although the number in the Gulf of Mexico has decreased.
But the endangered status of the big-eyed tuna and tuna skipjack has remained unchanged from the previous red list, and Pacific tuna is still considered “almost endangered”.
Among other declining species, more than a third of shark and rye species are threatened with extinction. “With marine species because they’re underwater in the ocean, people think it’s an endless resource,” Hilton-Taylor said. “It is hard [for them] to see that we are losing a lot of marine life. “
The updated list also contains bad news for the Komodo dragon, which has moved into the endangered category. The world’s largest lizard is threatened by rising sea levels, which will hit the islands on which it lives, reducing its habitat by as much as 30 percent over the next 45 years.
One of the measures being discussed at this year’s IUCN Congress is a proposal to protect 30 percent of the Earth’s land and oceans by 2030, although Congressional recommendations are not binding.
Where climate change meets business, markets and politics. Explore FT coverage here.
Are you interested in FT’s environmental sustainability obligations? Learn more about our science-based goals here