The international commission that sets fishing limits for tuna and other large migratory fish is meeting in Brazil. The commission faces a depressing reality: the bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean is headed toward commercial extinction.
From time to time, the commission has marginally reduced the allowable catch, but never by as much as its scientists have recommended, and never by enough to reverse the fish’s plunge toward extinction. The only quota that will make a difference is zero. The tuna fishery in the Mediterranean, where most of the fish spawn, should be shut down, pure and simple, until scientists say the fish have reached sustainable levels.
The United States delegation to the talks should settle for nothing less. If the talks produce only a reduced quota — given the makeup of the commission, that could happen — then the United States should join Monaco and other nations that have been pressing to put tuna on the international list of endangered species. Such a listing would allow fishermen to sell bluefin domestically but would make the high-volume international trade illegal, finally giving tuna a chance to recover.