Tangled up in Atlantic Bluefin: Data, Science, Values and Outcomes
Molly Lutcavage, UMass Boston, Large Pelagics Research Center
Not long ago, Atlantic bluefin tuna, known as horse mackerel, were canned and processed for pet food. Within decades, its value and notoriety rocketed to the top of the charts of fisheries and conservation worlds. Fishermen called out the mismatch between their perceptions of abundance with vocal distrust of stock assessments. Yet despite intense management efforts and bitter discord about its population status, the itinerant bluefin tuna veiled key aspects of its life history across a long lifespan and vast ocean habitat. Through cooperative research partnerships and fishery-independent approaches outside of assessment “culture”, we narrowed this scientific divide with field studies and ecological modeling. I will show how overturning deeply held beliefs requires navigating a path among fisheries stakeholders, assessment scientists, policy makers and conservation advocates.
Dr. Molly Lutcavage is the founder and Director of the Large Pelagics Research Center and Research Professor, School for the Environment, UMass Boston. Her laboratory conducts oceanographic studies on the movements, behavior and physiological ecology of tunas, billfish and marine turtles. Lutcavage’s research program is known for its partnerships with commercial and recreational fishermen in the US and Canada, and collaborations with international science teams and students. Her long term study of Atlantic bluefin tuna and pioneering use of electronic tags resulted in new understanding of their migration routes and life history. Lutcavage served on the first scientific steering committee of CLIOTOP (Climate Change Impact on Top Predators), the US Scientific Advisory Committee for ICCAT (1994-2012), the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Management Council SSC (2007-2016), and remains an advocate of basic ecological research to support sustainable fisheries.