Pew urges NMFS to protect bluefin tuna


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
August 31, 2009

The Pew Environment Group on Tuesday joined 14 fishing and conservation organizations and the public in urging the National Marine Fisheries Service to reject its proposal allowing commercial longline fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico to keep more bluefin tuna than currently permitted.

They are urging NMFS to protect western Atlantic bluefin tuna from overfishing by closing off an area of the Gulf to longlining.

“Atlantic bluefin tuna, one of the largest and most valuable fish in the oceans, is in dire straits,” said Lee Crockett, director of Pew’s federal fisheries policy. “We now have the opportunity to restore this fish to healthy levels. The question is whether or not [NMFS] will finally take the necessary and bold steps to protect bluefin in U.S. waters.”

Direct commercial fishing for bluefin tuna in the Gulf has been banned since 1982, but longliners targeting swordfish and yellowfin tuna are allowed to keep up to three incidentally-caught bluefin tuna per trip. NMFS has proposed allowing longliners to keep more bluefin than currently permitted.

In addition to protecting bluefin tuna, the closure would help conserve populations of white and blue marlin and leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles, which are unintentionally snagged and killed by longlines, said Pew.

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