04/10/2011 - The numbers of endangered bluefin tuna are rapidly dwindling, due to vast overfishing fueled by Japan’s insatiable sushi appetite. The international body set up to conserve these fish has utterly failed to do its job. But a small and clever innovation may slow their decline: special hooks designed to help commercial fishing boats in the Gulf of Mexico avoid catching bluefin accidentally.
The hooks are simply thinner than usual, and bend under the weight of a bluefin, whose average size when caught in the gulf is 485 pounds. The hooks still work for yellowfin tuna and swordfish, which weigh a lot less. Fishing for bluefin in the gulf has been illegal since the 1980s, but longline boats often catch them without meaning to. Whether landed or released, the bluefin die.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will require the 50 longline vessels in the gulf to start using the hooks on May 5. Some fishermen are already using them, because they work so well. The sooner the better, because the gulf is where the bluefin spawn each spring.
Read the full editorial, Bluefin Tuna Catch a (Small) Break, on the New York Times' Web site.