For Immediate Release, May 27, 2011
Contact: Catherine Kilduff, (415) 644-8580
Feds Deny Endangered Species Act Protection for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
Decision Flies in the Face of Tuna’s Recent 80 Percent Decline Due to Overfishing
WASHINGTON— The National Marine Fisheries Service today denied Endangered Species Act protection for Atlantic bluefin tuna, a species that has declined by more than 80 percent in recent decades because of overfishing. The tuna was also heavily impacted by last year’s oil spill in its spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico, which wiped out an estimated 20 percent of juvenile tuna there.
“The Obama administration today turned a blind eye to the staggering declines of Atlantic bluefin tuna in recent years,” said Catherine Kilduff, an oceans attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, which petitioned the Fisheries Service for Endangered Species Act protections for the tuna in May 2010. “There’s a bounty on the head of every bluefin tuna, which are threatened by rampant illegal fishing overseas and longline hooks that pluck them from their Gulf of Mexico spawning grounds. We’re dooming this species to extinction without additional protection.”
The Atlantic bluefin (Thunnus thynnus) is a warm-blooded fish that can weigh 1,000 pounds and reach 13 feet in length. It is among the fastest of all species, capable of speeds greater than 55 miles per hour, and is threatened by overfishing, capture for tuna ranches, and changing ocean and climate conditions.
Bluefin tuna has become a high-value commodity in recent years, mostly due to its popularity as sushi. Because of market demand, several stocks of bluefin tuna have been severely overfished. Since 1970, western Atlantic bluefin tuna have declined by more than 80 percent due to overfishing. In the eastern Atlantic, the majority of the decline has occurred in the past 10 years as they have been caught, without regulatory oversight, for fish farming.
“Despite the imminent risk of extinction, the Fisheries Service continues to put its eggs in the basket of international management, a proven failed system,” Kilduff said. “To survive, bluefin tuna need not only reduced fishing, but also clean, safe seas for their feeding and reproduction, which would be ensured by protections under the Endangered Species Act.”
Specifically, Endangered Species Act protections would prohibit fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna and require federal agencies such as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement to avoid jeopardizing the bluefin in permitting offshore drilling. Additionally, protections would safeguard critical habitat and ban importation.
In response to the decline of the bluefin, the Center for Biological Diversity last year launched a nationwide boycott of bluefin tuna. (Visit bluefinboycott.org for more information.) More than 22,000 people have joined the Center’s campaign and pledged not to eat at restaurants serving bluefin tuna, and dozens of chefs and owners of seafood and sushi restaurants have pledged not to sell bluefin.
For more information about the Center’s campaign to save the Atlantic bluefin tuna, visit: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/fish/Atlantic_bluefin_tuna/index.html.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.