The performance of bluefin tuna off the Atlantic coast of Canada has dashed hopes of a rebound in the lucrative New Year’s Day event, where the abundant fish are already thought to be near extinction.
On Oct. 1, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans issued a statement saying that the fish were 20 percent heavier than usual but still too small to successfully spawn and set off a series of events including a dozen anglers opting to not have any fish for dinner. That group, a significant number of Canadians who normally eat thousands of pounds of bluefin, contributed to the 28 percent decline in the annual bluefin catch among Canadian participants.
The Atlantic bluefin is one of the world’s most sought-after fish. Typically caught during blue-bellied moon months, bluefin typically weigh anywhere from 40 to 200 pounds. And there are hopes they could be strong enough to give the species a second chance.
The news comes as bluefin tuna catches worldwide continue to diminish. In 2015, 90 percent of the global population was estimated to be too small to spawn.
Only a few of the Atlantic bluefin populations have been consistently surveyed for decades, so scientists are monitoring smaller groups for trends like how many adults are spawning in quantity.
This year, only two of the Atlantic populations were doing well. The largest population, the Nantucket blue, remained healthy but the other largest population, the Stellwagen Bank population, was near the margins, all set to drop significantly next year, according to the fisheries department. In addition, numerous smaller populations experienced substantial declines due to abnormal movement of males.
Nevertheless, there are still expectations that a major bluefin population, the Atlantic seabass, will rescue the bluefin’s chance at a comeback in 2019 and beyond.