Atlantic Bluefin tuna are in crisis. Populations of Atlantic bluefin have dropped as much as 97 percent in the last half century. Decades of over-fishing fueled by a global appetite for the majestic fish have led it to the brink of extinction. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is considering whether to list Atlantic bluefin as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Already imperiled by irresponsible fishing, Atlantic bluefin were dealt another setback by the BP disaster in the Gulf. The blowout and ensuing spill occured during the height of their spawning season and recent reports indicate the the oil spill killed twenty percent of the juvenile western Atlantic bluefin tuna in the area. Time is running out to protect these mighty creatures.
Hopes for international agreement on protecting the fish were quashed earlier this year when participants to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) failed to reach consensus on a worldwide ban in the trade of bluefin tuna. The United States was in support of the ban, but Canada and Japan, motivated by record market prices for the fish's meat, indicated they would not support the ban and that Japan would ignore it if passed. Japan comsumes roughly 75 percent of the world's bluefin catch, mostly in the form of sushi.
International efforts may have reached an impasse for now, but we can act to safeguard Atlantic bluefin tuna in the United States. Designating the fish as endangered would grant the protections and resources it desperately needs to survive.
Decades of over-fishing and more recently the Gulf oil spill have driven stocks of both distinct population segments to historic lows. The failure of the international community to ban trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna globally intensifies the need to list the species.
Classifying eastern Atlantic/Mediterranean and western Atlantic bluefin tuna as endangered will provide them with the protections and resources they desperately need to continue to exist in our waters. Listing the species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act will allow officials to craft policies to help the species recover amidst this nation's worst environmental catastrophe in history.
I appreciate your consideration and look forward to your agency's decision.
Document Type: PROPOSED RULES