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For Immediate Release, October 18, 2010

Contact: Catherine Kilduff, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 644-8580

Study: Oil Spill Devastating for Bluefin Tuna Imperiled by Overfishing

SAN FRANCISCO— A scientific study released today estimates that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico killed 20 percent of the juvenile western Atlantic bluefin tuna in the area. Already, overfishing has caused a decline in western Atlantic bluefin tuna of more than 80 percent since 1970. The study, conducted by the European Space Agency and the Ocean Foundation, further supports the Center for Biological Diversity’s petition in May 2010 to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act.

“This study confirms our worst fears about the oil spill’s impacts on bluefin tuna and provides more evidence that this species needs the Endangered Species Act to survive,” said Catherine Kilduff, an oceans program attorney at the Center. “The federal government could have predicted the effects of the spill during spawning season prior to the disaster; listing Atlantic bluefin tuna as endangered will prevent such an oversight from ever occurring again.”

On Sept. 21, 2010, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced it will consider protecting Atlantic bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act. That protection would require federal agencies such as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement to avoid jeopardizing the bluefin tuna in permitting offshore drilling. Additionally, protections would safeguard critical habitat and ban the importation of bluefin.

“The oil spill couldn’t have come at a worse time for bluefin tuna, which come to the Gulf of Mexico each year to spawn. They had little chance of escaping unscathed,” said Kilduff. “This study presents hard numbers showing just how high the death toll was.”

The bluefin, a majestic fish weighing close to a ton and reaching 13 feet in length, is among the fastest of all species, capable of speeds greater than 55 miles per hour. There are two imperiled populations of Atlantic bluefin tuna, one that spawns in the Gulf of Mexico and another that spawns in the Mediterranean. The Center’s petition seeks endangered status for both populations, which are intensely overfished.

For more information about the Center’s bluefin tuna conservation campaign, visit http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/fish/Atlantic_bluefin_tuna/index.html.


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