Endangered Status Sought for Bluefin Tuna: Species Already Imperiled by Fishing Now Faces Loss of Gulf Spawning Grounds to Oil Spill

For Immediate Release


Catherine Kilduff,
(415) 644-8580

Endangered Status Sought for Bluefin Tuna: Species Already Imperiled by Fishing Now Faces Loss of Gulf Spawning Grounds to Oil Spill

for Biological Diversity filed a formal scientific petition today to protect
Atlantic bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act. Overfishing has erased
more than 80 percent of the bluefin tuna in the North
Atlantic compared to what the population would be without fishing
pressures. Now the Gulf oil disaster threatens to devastate the western Atlantic
bluefin population as millions of gallons of oil gush into the tuna’s habitat
during spawning season. The oil will have devastating effects on eggs and larvae
floating in the sheen, and will even harm adult tunas breathing oil into their
gills. Also, heavy use of dispersants threatens tuna and dispersed oil is known
to be toxic to fish.

status for bluefin tuna could mean enhanced protections for all fish and
wildlife in the Gulf,” said Catherine Kilduff, the author of the petition and
oceans attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Oil rigs are scattered
throughout essential breeding habitat for bluefin tuna, and protections could
force reforms of the Interior Department’s lax environmental oversight of the
oil industry by limiting drilling to avoid adverse effects on fish and their

There are
two imperiled populations of Atlantic bluefin tuna; one spawns only in the Gulf
of Mexico while the other spawns in the Mediterranean. The petition seeks endangered status for
both populations, which have collapsed due to intense overfishing. Despite
attempts to set quotas for bluefin tuna, temptation for the popular sushi fish
is just too great — one tuna fetched $177,000 in the fish market this year. In
2007, fishermen reported catching 34,514 tons of eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna,
exceeding the allowable catch by about 5,000 tons. Scientists estimated the
actual catch was likely about double the reported amount.

tuna encounter thousands of deadly hooks while migrating across the Atlantic,
and now an oil spill will welcome home the survivors,” said Kilduff. “Bluefin
tuna need the protection of the Endangered Species Act, which can provide an
important safety net before bluefin tuna disappear entirely from the

Able to
migrate across entire oceans, bluefin return to their native spawning grounds to
breed. A majestic fish weighing close to a ton and reaching 13 feet, the bluefin
is among the fastest of all species, with speeds over 55 miles per hour. Bluefin
tuna are threatened by overfishing, capture for tuna ranches, and changing ocean
conditions from global warming.

under the Endangered Species Act would require federal agencies such as the
Minerals Management Service to avoid jeopardizing the bluefin tuna, and it would
protect critical habitat. Additionally, protections would ban the importation of

For more
information on the oil spill and its effects on wildlife, please see: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/public_lands/energy/dirty_energy_development/oil_and_gas/gulf_oil_spill/index.html.


At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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