Myth of invincibility shattered: evaluation of current trends in the conservation status of marine species

High Value and Long-Lived: A Double Jeopardy for Threatened Tunas and Billfishes

Abstract: The first standardized, global assessment for all known species of scombrids and billfishes, using the IUCN Red List criteria, reveals that long-lived and economically valuable species are predisposed to a heightened risk of extinction. These large-bodied scombrids and billfishes are at the top of the pelagic food web and population reductions of these groups may have significant effects on upper trophic level structure and functioning and lead to cascading effects on lower trophic levels. Of 61 scombrid and billfish species assessed, 11 (18%) were listed as Data Deficient, 39 (64%) were Least Concern, four (7%) were Near Threatened, and seven (11%) met the thresholds for a threatened Category. There are examples of successful management and recovery of scombrids and billfishes. However, the future of threatened species rests in the ability of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) and fishing nations to properly manage these species. To protect these highly-valued and ecologically important groups, strong deterrents to illegal fishing are needed, such as controlled international trade through a listing on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In addition, reductions in fishing-induced mortality rates to below MSY is recommended in order for recovery to begin. IUCN Red List Assessments of these species, together with lessons learned from past failures and successes, should help RFMOs improve their management of some of the world's most valuable fishery resources.

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