Since the 16th century, Atlantic bluefin tuna has been a popular, reliable source for seafood across the world. Originally, sometime between 24-79 AD, bluefin tuna consumption was recommended to treat ulcers. Later, beginning in the 1500s, bluefin was seen as a ‘garbage fish’ to be used as the main ingredient in cat food, but this completely transitioned in the 20th century due to an increase in the global popularity of Japanese sushi. The considerable growth in bluefin tuna demand for use in sushi is reflected in 2012 records of single fish frequently being sold for over six figures. In the 21st century, the popularity, demand and price of bluefin tuna has caused years of irreversible stock depletion. As a result of overcapitalized fisheries (fisheries where the total amount of invested capital is greater than the most profitable level of sustainable production) overfishing has caused Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks to massively diminish. In 1966, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna was founded to assist the recovery of endangered stocks. Although the Commission was established with the responsibility to create policies to benefit the revival of overfished bluefin tuna stocks, it is revealed through my thesis that ICCAT’s regulations did anything but benefit bluefin stocks, until recently.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna was created three years after the first major Atlantic bluefin tuna stock collapse in 1963. It began to establish regulatory policies to assist the bluefin stock’s recovery in 1998, but its policies from this point until 2014 are deemed ineffective as overfishing of the stock persisted throughout the duration of this period (Webster 2015). This thesis seeks to investigate whether the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna’s policies from 2014 to 2021 were truly effective in achieving maximized sustainability and economic efficiency. Using the Action Cycle/Structural Context Framework, I will replace the Structural Context’s factor of governance with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna’s policies spanning from 2014 to 2021 in order to observe policy effects on our analysis’ actors (bluefin tuna fishers, processors, marketers, consumers, and environmental groups) and resources (bluefin tuna fish stock, tuna fisher’s ability and flexibility, capital and technology related to bluefin products, and political power/social capital regarding stock conservation). According to the Framework’s Action Cycle, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna’s responsive governmental policies are considered ‘ineffective’ when overfishing persists and ‘effective’ when overfishing is mitigated. Under this definition, it is possible to individually analyze the ecological and economic effectiveness of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna’s policies from 2014 to now.