Scientists Thrilled to Find Species Returned From the Brink of Extinction

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: Mar 08, 2024

In an amazing turn of events, and with quite a lot of care and attention from several organizations, a species scientists once believed was destined to become extinct has returned in the thousands.

Since 2014, bluefin tuna have slowly but surely been returning to the oceans around the United Kingdom, and now, for the first time in 60 years, commercial fishermen were able to catch, keep, and sell hundreds of the popular fish. 

Saving Bluefin Tuna From Extinction

Just a few decades ago, fisherman and scientists alike began to notice a significant decrease in the number of bluefin tuna in the ocean. 

Digital illustration of a bluefin tuna swimming in the sea

Source: Inigo Onandia/University of South Hampton

For years, commercial fishing boats and individual fishermen would catch one or two on occasion but they became increasingly hard to find. 

CHART Began Its Work in 2020

Then, in 2020, CHART, a catch and release tag program, started working toward saving the bluefin tuna from extinction. 

CHART program illustration depicting the number of bluefin tuna tagged in 2021


By 2022, the organization had a total of 25 charter vessels which would deploy around the islands of Great Britain to catch, tag, and release bluefin tuna back into the wild. Today, there are more than 1,700 tagged bluefins swimming happily in the sea, and scientists believe there are even more that haven’t been tagged. 

Why Did the Bluefin Tuna Return?

While it’s almost impossible to say for sure why the bluefin tuna’s numbers have increased so significantly in recent years, there are a few theories. 

Dozens of giant tuna on the deck of a commercial fishing boat

Source: @FishermanCatchFish/YouTube

The UK government reports the most likely reasons for the recent increase are  changes in environmental and prey conditions. Though others argue that it was the overfishing that occurred for decades which directly led to the decrease in numbers, so when fishing bluefins became illegal, they were able to repopulate without being disturbed. 

The UK Government Has Approved the Fishing of Bluefin Tuna

Thanks to the success of the CHART program, the UK government has given the green light for commercial fishing vessels to once again fish for bluefin tuna. However, they have implemented several regulations. 

Commercial fishing vessel with two giant nets at sea

Source: Britannica

Currently, commercial fishermen are allowed to keep one bluefin tuna per day per boat to sell for consumption. But conservationists worry this rule will be quite hard to enforce. 

Overfishing Can Certainly Happen Again

Fisheries Enforcement Officers at the Environment Agency in the UK will need to be extremely attentive to each and every commercial fishing vessel for the foreseeable future to ensure that this law is followed to the tee. Otherwise, the bluefin tuna’s resurgence could be extremely short lived. 

Commercial fishermen check the fish they caught on the deck of a ship

Source: CDC

Head of fisheries and aquaculture at the Marine Conservation Society, Dr. Kenneth Bodles, explained, “As we witness this resurgence of bluefin tuna in the UK, it’s crucial that we proceed with utmost care, adopting careful management and continued monitoring that honours the fragile balance of our seas and respects this iconic species.”


Why Would Commercial Fishermen Be Tempted to Break the Bluefin Law?

It’s important to understand that commercial and even individual fishermen are likely to attempt to break the one-fish-per-boat law because bluefin tuna are extremely valuable. 

Digital illustration of “fishing for cash” with a fish hook and several hundred dollar bills underwater

Source: iStock

Many bluefin tuna weigh upwards of 500 or even 600 pounds. And the price per pound can range anywhere from $20 to $50,000. In fact, in 2020, a 608-pound bluefin tuna was sold in Japan for $1.8 million


Bluefin Tuna Are Especially Delicious

The reason why bluefin tuna are so wildly expensive is because they are considered one of the most delicious species of tuna in the ocean.

Fresh bluefin tuna crusted in sesame seeds on a salad

Source: Freepik

Michelin-star restaurants all around the world will pay the exorbitant price tag for as many pounds of bluefin as they can get their hands on, because they can sell it for even more once it’s been expertly prepared. 


People Around the World Are Excited to Both Catch and Eat Bluefin Once Again

While there are certainly chefs and foodies who are wildly excited to once again be able to serve and enjoy a perfectly cooked bluefin tuna, it’s the fisherman who seem the most exhilarated by the return of the giant fish. 

Fisherman stands in a river while waiting for a bite

Source: Freepik

For many who have spent their lives trying to catch the rarest and largest fish in the sea, the bluefin tuna is the ultimate catch.


“It’s One of Those Bucket-List Fish”

Chris Gill, a skipper of a recreational fishing boat in England explained to The Guardian, “I’ve had a pair of 11-year-old twins out with their dad catching bluefin tuna. They both had a 320-pound fish. I had a 76-year-old with lung cancer come out because it’s one of those bucket-list fish.”

Two fishermen pose with their giant bluefin tuna

Source: @Brroksy/YouTube

Gill believes that the opportunity to catch these once-in-a-lifetime fish is a great thing, but others hear that fishermen are heading out to sea specifically looking for bluefin and are worried about the consequences. 


Mackerel May Be the Next Species in Trouble

Bluefin tuna are certainly making headlines since their majestic return from the brink of extinction, but they are not the only fish conservationists are worried about.

School of mackerel swimming in the sea

Source: Wikipedia

According to the UK Marine Conservation Society, over the past 15 years, commercial fishermen have been fishing an average of 41% more than the recommended amount every year. Consequently, the number of mackerel are significantly decreasing, and they could certainly be extinct in the next few years if practices continue as they are now.


Caution Is Crucial in the Coming Years

While bluefin tuna have successfully returned to the seas, conservationists are still worried they could disappear again at any time.

Commercial fishing vessel with giant net catches thousands of fish

Source: @FishermanCatchFish/YouTube

Therefore, it is absolutely crucial that fishermen of all kinds, both commercial and recreational, are extremely cautious and follow the regulations imposed by the UK and other governments. Otherwise, in just a few years, the bluefin tuna could be gone for good.