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Biodiversity: New bluefin tuna fishing rule challenged

Recreational anglers clean a haul of tuna at a marina in Venice, Louisiana. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Conservation advocates say increase take will speed demise of rare fish

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —Conservation advocates are challenging a new fisheries rule that increases the take of rare Atlantic bluefin tuna, a species already under pressure from overfishing and illegal commerce driven in part by Japan’s nearly insatiable demand for sushi-grade tuna.

Atlantic bluefin are listed as a species of concern under the Endangered Species Act. The species is also listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. Most other species of tuna are also identified by the IUCN as being in trouble. Check this IUCN Red List web page for more information.

The Center for Biological Diversity last week filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service challenging seeking to halt the dramatic expansion of commercial fishing from Massachusetts to Florida in an effort to prevent bluefin from being fished to extinction.

“Bluefin tuna were once the giants of the sea, but overfishing has depleted the ocean of this remarkable fish. It’s completely backwards to ramp up fishing of bluefin tuna at a time when they’re increasingly rare,” said Catherine Kilduff, a staff attorney at the Center.

The fisheries service says the rule will convert potential dead discards to live landings and expand fishing commercial and recreational fishing opportunities.

But western Atlantic bluefin have declined by more than 80 percent since 1970 due to overfishing. The Fisheries Service’s latest rule nearly doubles the number of bluefin tuna that can be caught each day, as well as lengthened the fishing season. Because of the longer fishing season, bluefin tuna catches will shift from northeastern waters to include the mid- and south Atlantic states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

“This rule enables fishermen to chase the remaining bluefin tuna down the Atlantic Coast on their way to reproduce in the Gulf of Mexico. At some point, the last bluefin tuna will be caught, and there’ll be no fishery left at all,” said Kilduff.

Atlantic bluefin, listed as a species of concern under the Endangered Species Act in June, grow to be as large as 1,500 pounds and can live for more than 30 years. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a matter of weeks, bluefin tuna from the Mediterranean Sea visit U.S. waters to feed before returning to the Mediterranean to reproduce. A separate and much smaller population of bluefin tuna spawn only in the Gulf of Mexico.

An international treaty sets the U.S. quota for bluefin tuna, but the treaty has failed to rebuild the imperiled bluefin tuna population. Bluefin tuna are so sought after for sushi that a single fish sold for almost $400,000 in Japan, although more typical prices are $10,000 to $20,000 per fish. The high demand has spurred illegal and unreported fishing, which has prevented the recovery of bluefin tuna populations.

In response to the decline of the bluefin, the Center last year launched a nationwide boycott of bluefin tuna. Visit bluefinboycott.org for more information. More than 35,000 people have joined the Center’s campaign and pledged not to eat at restaurants serving bluefin tuna; 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.

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7 Responses

  1. Overfishing, another event that’s brought to you, courtesy of modern humankind. Destroying the biodiversity of the planet, seems to be mans forte.

    • You do realize that Recreational fisherman only get to keep 1 BFT between 27′-58″ PER BOAT?

      Take your fight oversees and go after you European friends. Recreational fisherman had nothing to do with the BFT demise.

      To bad the latest assessment showed an increase in BFT biomass.

  2. Gosh Gina, I’m confused by what you mean 27′-58″ per boat. As for “my fight”, the story says the cause of the over fishing, and it wasn’t from “sport fishermen” but from the commercial types. If you dig into the subject, you’ll find that over fishing is caused by the commercial fishing industry, regardless of where they are home based. Sport fishing alone, tends to be similar to sustainable harvesting, as in what the American Indian practiced years ago. “European” friends, what ever you are implying, well, shouldn’t you have said my “Japanese” friends instead? Sorry if you’ve taken my comment out of context, but if modern man didn’t have those huge commercial fishing ships of today, then we might not be having this conversation. Cheers.

  3. The western stock is recovering and overfishing on the western stock by canada and US is not occuring and has not for over 10 years. This article has too much mis-information to even be taken seriously.

  4. [...] updated breaking news, world news, op-eds and features, live from Beirut, Lebanon. Biodiversity: New bluefin tuna fishing rule challenged « Summit … SUMMIT COUNTY —Conservation advocates are challenging a new fisheries rule that increases the [...]

  5. Dear Norman,stop being so sassy.

    • Dear Jenny, you’ve lost MOI, I haven’t the foggiest idea of what you speak. Are you saying I’m: 1-rude & disrespectful, impudent, 2-lively & spirited; jaunty, 3-Stylish; chic ? ? all because Gina took my comment out of context & I responded? Exactly what/where are you going with your comment?

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