Lawsuit Challenges Delay in Protecting Vanishing Bluefin Tuna

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Catherine Kilduff, (415) 644-8580

Lawsuit Challenges Delay in Protecting Vanishing Bluefin Tuna

Endangered Status Sought for Magnificent, Warm-blooded Fish

WASHINGTON - The Center for Biological Diversity formally notified the National Marine Fisheries Service today that it intends to sue the agency for failing to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act. The tuna, which migrates across the Atlantic to spawn in the Gulf of Mexico, faces extinction due to severe overfishing and habitat degradation, including effects of the BP oil spill. The Center filed a petition to protect bluefin tuna as endangered on May 24, 2010; by law the agency has one year to determine if the fish merits endangered status.

“If the government doesn’t move quickly, the question won’t be when the bluefin will recover but whether this animal will survive at all. Precipitous declines may not be reversible unless protections finally put a halt to overfishing and protect bluefin tuna nursery grounds,” said Catherine Kilduff, a Center staff attorney.

Overfishing of Atlantic bluefin tuna has caused a more-than 80-percent decline in the population due to industrial fishing. The millions of gallons of oil that gushed into the Gulf of Mexico and into tuna breeding grounds during spawning season further diminishes the species’ chance for recovery; scientists estimate the oil killed more than 20 percent of juvenile bluefin tuna in 2010.

In addition to petitioning for protections under the Endangered Species Act, the Center launched a bluefin boycott in order to reduce the consumer demand that drives up prices and spurs illegal fishing. More than 22,000 people have pledged not to eat at restaurants serving bluefin tuna, and dozens of chefs and owners of seafood and sushi restaurants have pledged not to sell bluefin.

“If we don’t stop overfishing, bluefin tuna will vanish, leading to empty hooks and an empty ocean. With each year, bluefin tuna become scarcer in U.S. waters. Canada’s scientists, in their assessment of bluefin as ‘endangered,’ calculated a 68-percent decline in two and a half generations. It’s time to halt the decline before bluefin tuna disappear forever,” said Kilduff.

Background
The Atlantic bluefin (Thunnus thynnus) is a majestic fish that can weigh 1,000 pounds and reach 13 feet in length. It is among the fastest of all species, capable of speeds greater than 55 miles per hour, and is threatened by overfishing, capture for tuna ranches, and changing ocean and climate conditions.

Protection under the Endangered Species Act would prohibit fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna and require federal agencies such as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement to avoid jeopardizing the bluefin in permitting offshore drilling. Additionally, protections would safeguard critical habitat and ban importation.

For more information about the Center’s bluefin tuna conservation campaign, visit: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/fish/Atlantic_bluefin_tuna/index.html. Please go to bluefinboycott.org to sign the pledge and share the Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bluefin-Tuna-Boycott-Join-the-Bluefin-Brigade/107330386001726).

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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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