More Than 180,000 Stakeholders Speak Out for Bluefin Tuna Protections
Read our letter to NOAA (PDF)
The western Atlantic bluefin tuna population hovers at historically low numbers. But despite a ban on directed fishing for this species in the Gulf of Mexico—the fish's only known spawning area—hundreds are killed each year by wasteful fishing practices. Bluefin tuna aren't alone, however. More than 80 other types of animals, including majestic blue marlin and endangered sea turtles, are caught and killed by indiscriminate surface longlines that stretch on average for 30 miles and suspend approximately 700 hooks per line.
This incidental killing of bluefin tuna by surface longlines is of particular concern in the Gulf of Mexico and in U.S. mid-Atlantic waters, where these fish end up dead far too often on this commercial fishing gear.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) has recognized the significant negative effect that surface longlines have on bluefin and is currently evaluating various management changes aimed at mitigating the gear's impact in U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. A public comment period ended Sunday, July 15.
More than 180,000 stakeholders from around the country submitted comments to NOAA Fisheries urging the agency to implement management measures that will protect this species from indiscriminate fishing practices:
- promoting the transition from surface longlines to more selective gears,
- prohibiting the use of surface longline fishing year-round in the Gulf,
- and implementing a strict limit on bluefin mortality from surface longlines in this fishery along the Atlantic coast.
In addition to those individuals who provided comments, more than 180 fishing organizations, businesses, and environmental groups submitted letters to NOAA Fisheries supporting meaningful action to help protect these fish. This strong show of support for new bluefin tuna conservation measures is an important factor as the agency drafts a new rule that could come out as soon as 2013.
The Pew Environment Group and its partner organizations are actively engaged in this process and will continue to mobilize the public to ensure that long-term, comprehensive protections for bluefin are included in NOAA's final rulemaking.