SAVING THE BLUEFIN TUNA
Reaching speeds that rival those of cars on a freeway, bluefin tuna can cross the Atlantic in fewer than 60 days. Yet these majestic fish haven’t been able to outrun modern fishing fleets: Overfishing has driven them close to extinction, and they may soon completely disappear from the ocean. Commercial fishing, in the form of longlines, gillnets and purse seines, isn’t just bad for the bluefin tuna; it’s also wiping out endangered sea turtles, seabirds and marine mammals along the way.
The plight of bluefin tuna has been internationally recognized, but efforts to stop the deadly hooks and nets have failed. In fact, humans have such a taste for sushi that in 2013, one fish fetched $1.7 million at a Japanese fish market. Meanwhile, shifty politics has kept fishing quotas far above sustainable levels recommended by scientists. To let the bluefin tuna off the hook, in November 2010 the Center launched our Bluefin Boycott campaign, which is mobilizing thousands of people across the globe in a pledge not to eat or serve bluefin tuna sushi.
During the Gulf oil disaster in 2010, the Center filed a scientific petition to list Atlantic bluefin tuna as endangered. With the tuna already in crisis, the spill threatened its essential breeding habitat as millions of gallons of oil flooded the water column during the height of bluefin spawning — and the spill’s effects will linger in bluefin habitat for many years.
On May 27, 2011, the Fisheries Service announced it would designate the Atlantic bluefin tuna as a “species of concern” but not give it any additional protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Fisheries Service is relying on international management, which has failed for the past 40 years, to save the species — despite the fact that the United States is primarily responsible for the decline of the western Atlantic bluefin tuna, a critically endangered stock that spawns in the Gulf of Mexico and is fished mostly by U.S. fishermen. Canada, which catches the second-highest number of western Atlantic bluefin tuna after the United States, in May 2011 assessed the stock as “endangered,” meaning it faces imminent extirpation or extinction.
Our petition and legal work has been specifically defending the Atlantic population of bluefin. We’re advocating for all bluefin tuna through our Bluefin Boycott campaign. Pacific bluefin numbers are in fact at an astonishing historic low: A 2013 scientific report concluded that their population had declined by an estimated 96.4 percent from unfished levels.