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Out of the blue: conservation efforts help the Atlantic bluefin tuna rebound


Researchers Boris Worm and Laurenne Schiller share a home on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, and a fascination with it’s creatures.

Worm, a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, has written or co-authored hundreds of research papers on the state of our oceans, while Schiller, a Liber Ero Postdoctoral Fellow affiliated with Ottawa’s Carleton University, is studying the successes and failures of Canadian fisheries management.

But her passion is the Atlantic bluefin tuna.

"We get them off our porch here and we're 10 kilometres from Halifax! That's brilliant!” says Schiller from their Ferguson’s Cove, N.S., home.

When asked to explain her fascination with the tuna species found in Maritime waters, she asks, “Did you know they're one of the fastest fish in the ocean?”

Special adaptations to their fins make the Atlantic bluefin more streamlined. And skin, instead of scales, further lessens drag, allowing them to reach top speeds of about 70 km/h.

“They basically turn themselves into a torpedo," says Schiller.

Researcher Laurenne Schiller stand on rocks along a coastline with a wet suit pulled up only to her hips. Scuba gear is scattered among the rocks. (Courtesty: Boris Worm)

But by the year 2000, Atlantic bluefin tuna were in bad shape, depleted by about 80 per cent of its historic biomass, with overfishing to blame.

The species spans most of the Atlantic Ocean with dozens of countries trying to catch them.

Schiller and Worm say stocks turned a corner about a decade ago, after public awareness campaigns from NGOs, and the rise of the sustainable seafood movement.

“This gave companies incentives to try and improve their practices," Schiller says.

Researcher Boris Worm wears a and wet suit and scuba gear. (Courtesy: Boris Worm)

Then, more good news for the Atlantic bluefin last fall, with an international agreement on harvest control rules -- catch quotas -- taken out of the hands of politicians.

"[Now] it's purely science-based,” says Schiller. “That's a huge, huge turnaround."

"The ocean is not dead. It's alive and it's coming back,” says Worm, “if we give it a chance." Top Stories

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