Now is the Time to Help Bluefin Tuna in the Gulf of Mexico

For more than half a century, surface longline fishing has wastefully caught and killed Atlantic bluefin tuna and other nontarget ocean wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico, including white marlin, sailfish, and endangered sea turtles. The western Atlantic bluefin is particularly at risk from surface longlines, which average 30 miles long and suspend hundreds of hooks, because it is a distinct population (as compared to eastern Atlantic bluefin) that reproduces only in the Gulf. Throughout the years, the government has tried many regulations, such as changes to hook size, shape, and strength, but they have failed to sufficiently address the issues created by surface longlines. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 further exacerbated the decades-old problem when oil spread across 20 percent of the spawning area at the peak of the reproductive season.

It's time for a comprehensive, long-term solution. Recognizing the need to conserve Atlantic bluefin, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is considering sweeping changes to the way it manages this valuable fish. In April, the agency issued an official document containing various management options, but now NOAA needs to hear from you. Without strong public support, the status quo could remain in place for years.