Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 13, 2019

Contact: Catherine Kilduff, (530) 304-7258,

Lawsuit Challenges Federal Secrecy on Pacific Bluefin Tuna Protection Denial

Trump Administration Refuses to Release Public Records Supporting Decision

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump administration today for refusing to release public records on its denial of protection for imperiled Pacific bluefin tuna.

After the National Marine Fisheries Service denied Endangered Species Act protection to the Pacific bluefin in 2017, the Center sought records about the decision. Today’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, comes after the administration has refused to fully comply with that Freedom of Information Act request.

The Pacific bluefin, a powerful fish that commands top prices at auctions in Japan, has been overfished to less than 4 percent of its historic population. Most Pacific bluefin caught by commercial and sport fishers haven’t reached reproductive age, further undermining their recovery. 

“These fish desperately need federal protection, so we want to know why Trump officials shot down those safeguards and who they discussed it with,” said Catherine Kilduff, an attorney at the Center. “This administration has consistently chosen to support special interests over protecting a healthy ocean for all. The public deserves to know why the Pacific bluefin has been hung out to dry.”

In December 2017 the Center asked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for all records related to its August 2017 Pacific bluefin decision. The administration responded by claiming disclosure exemptions for 257 of those records and has not responded to the Center’s appeal of that decision.

Japan, South Korea, Mexico, the United States and other countries have failed to reduce fishing enough to protect this iconic species, a luxury item on sushi menus. One study found that bluefin and other large marine organisms are particularly vulnerable to the current mass extinction event. Their loss would disrupt the ocean food web in unprecedented ways, and they need more protection to survive. 

“Pacific bluefin are apex predators that are vital to healthy ocean ecosystems. Allowing them to be overfished for sushi is tragic,” Kilduff said. “The Endangered Species Act works, and we need to let it work for Pacific bluefin tuna.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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