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For Immediate Release, June 30, 2011

Contact: Catherine Kilduff, (415) 644-8580

Feds Set High Fishing Quotas for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, Allowing Continued Harm to Ravaged Species

WASHINGTON— The National Marine Fisheries Service today announced the highest limits allowable under international law for the U.S. catch of Atlantic bluefin tuna, a magnificent species ravaged by overfishing. The catch limits follow recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, which has failed to effectively regulate bluefin tuna fishing for more than 40 years.

But only last month, in response to a Center for Biological Diversity petition, the Fisheries Service designated the bluefin tuna as a species of concern due to the agency’s own concern over the health of the Gulf of Mexico — the only spot where western Atlantic bluefin tuna spawn — and the threat of overfishing of eastern Atlantic bluefin, which are plagued by illegal fishing in the Mediterranean.

“Western Atlantic bluefin tuna are critically imperiled, and yet our course for fishing is full-steam ahead,” said Catherine Kilduff, a Center for Biological Diversity staff attorney. “The catch levels announced today are too high for decimated bluefin tuna populations, especially given the state of the Gulf of Mexico and continued illegal fishing overseas.”

Last April the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred during prime bluefin tuna spawning season, April and May. Although larvae and juveniles cannot survive oil contact, scientists are most concerned about impacts to adult bluefin tuna, whose reproductive ability is key to persistence of the species. The Fisheries Service will reconsider whether the species should be listed as endangered or threatened in two years with additional knowledge of impacts from the oil spill.

Also today the Fisheries Service announced that bluefin tuna harvested by Libyan vessels in 2011 may have been illegally harvested and could be subject to increased scrutiny and potential liability for U.S. importers. One reason the Fisheries Service denied the Center’s petition to list Atlantic bluefin tuna as endangered this May was that “assuming countries comply with the bluefin tuna fishing quotas established by ICCAT, both the western and eastern Atlantic stocks are not likely to become extinct.”

“Today’s announcement is yet more evidence of inadequate compliance in the Mediterranean, risking extinction of the Atlantic bluefin tuna,” said Kilduff. “Business as usual — relying on the international community alone to save Atlantic bluefin tuna — is not enough.”

Western Atlantic bluefin tuna do not cross the Atlantic, but migrate from the Gulf of Mexico nursery areas to rich feeding grounds off New England. Those bluefin tuna spawning in the Mediterranean, however, traverse the ocean in a matter of weeks as early as age one. Overfishing in Europe means that fewer eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna reach U.S. waters. The United States’ continued overfishing compounds the problem, and as a result western Atlantic bluefin tuna have failed to recover as expected halfway through a 20-year rebuilding period.

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 our 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.


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