Shifting from marine reserves to maritime zoning for conservation of Pacific bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)
Over 50% of the total bigeye tuna (BET) landed in the Western Central Pacific Ocean is caught incidentally in the purse seine fishery and sold for canning at prices less than US$2/kg. The remainder is landed in longline fisheries directed at BET and sold as fresh or frozen tuna at prices greater than US$10/kg. The combined fishing mortality by all gears will soon reduce the BET biomass in the Pacific Ocean to less than that capable of producing maximum sustainable yield. Closure of the high-seas enclaves in 2009 was hailed as a conservation measure, but was not scientifically evaluated before implementation and appears to have had no beneficial effect on the BET stock. A spatially explicit age-structured ecosystem model, SEAPODYM, is used to simulate alternative area-based fishery management policies to conserve bigeye tuna in the Western Central Pacific Ocean. Closing the high-seas enclaves to purse seine fishing has negligible effect on the BET biomass. Fishery management policies that control mortality on both juveniles and adults, through prohibition of fish aggregation devices in the purse seine fishery and restrictions on longline fishing in spawning areas, are the most efficient conservation policies. Large-scale benefits from bigeye conservation measures will become apparent only in the 2030s, assuming timely implementation and minimal effects of climate change.