U.S. Declines to Protect the Overfished Bluefin Tuna

Publication: The New York Times

Author: Felicity Barringer

05/27/2011 - The Obama administration said on Friday that it had declined to grant Endangered Species Act protections to the Atlantic bluefin tuna, whose numbers have declined precipitously because of overfishing on both sides of the ocean.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the fish, whose fatty flesh is prized by sushi aficionados, would be classified as a species of concern, however, effectively placing bluefin on a watch list as the agency awaits new data on the impact of a stricter international management regimen.

“The future of this species relies on sound international management,” said Larry Robinson, NOAA’s assistant secretary for conservation and management. The agency’s scientists are also continuing to assess the effect of last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill on bluefin spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico, officials said, and the agency will revisit its decision by early 2013.


Lee Crockett, director of federal fisheries policy for the Pew Environment Group, another conservation organization, said that multilateral efforts to protect the bluefin tuna were crucial but that “international tools are not being used effectively.” Fishermen in the Mediterranean catch “twice the legal quota illegally,” he said.
Nor does the United States do enough, he added. Mr. Crockett said that additional steps were needed to protect the bluefin tuna’s spawning areas in the Gulf of Mexico and to end log-line fishing there, which causes the bluefin to be caught accidentally by commercial fishermen in pursuit of other fish.

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