While hunting, white marlin sometimes stun or kill their prey by spearing or slashing it with their sharp bills. Yet in an all-too-familiar tale for imperiled species worldwide, the hunter often becomes the hunted. Globally, predatory fish populations have dwindled, one of the most threatened being the solitary Atlantic white marlin, which continues to swim toward extinction. Commercial fishing, in the form of longlines, gillnets, and purse seines, is not just bad for the white marlin but is wiping out endangered sea turtles, sea birds, and marine mammals throughout the world’s oceans.
National Marine Fisheries Service scientists determined years ago that harvest levels of Atlantic white marlin were unsustainable and that, even under the best of circumstances, the species would continue to decline. Ignoring science as well as the law, the Service refused to list the fish as endangered when prompted by a citizen petition by the Biodiversity Legal Foundation (later absorbed by the Center) in 2001.
The Center filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Service’s decision not to afford Endangered Species Act protections to the white marlin. We ultimately want the agency to close important marlin spawning and feeding grounds to longline fishing. A new status review of the species was expected to be completed by the end of 2007 to determine whether the marlin warrants full legal protections.
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Contact: Brendan Cummings