U.S. rejects listing bluefin as endangered


Steven Hedlund

Published on
May 26, 2011

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Friday decided not to list Atlantic bluefin tuna for protection under the Endangered Species Act, which would have prohibited U.S. fishermen from catching the species.

However, NOAA committed to revisiting the decision by early 2013, when more information will be available about the effects of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as a new stock assessment from the scientific arm of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the international body charged with the species’ management.

“Based on careful scientific review, we have decided the best way to ensure the long-term sustainability of bluefin tuna is through international cooperation and strong domestic fishery management,” said NOAA Fisheries Administrator Eric Schwaab. “The United States will continue to be a leader in advocating science-based quotas at ICCAT, full compliance with these quotas and other management measures to ensure the long-term viability of this and other important fish stocks.”

The proposed listing stems from a petition submitted by San Francisco-based Center for Biological Diversity in May 2009. In September 2010, NOAA announced that it would consider protecting bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, bluefin tuna stocks are “in dramatic decline because of overfishing and habitat degradation.”

But fishermen disagree, arguing that bluefin tuna is sustainable fished in the western Atlantic and that mismanagement of the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery is to blame for overfishing. Fishermen are backed by several legislators, including U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine.

In March 2010, a proposal to ban the international trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna was rejected by the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). Only the United States, Norway and Kenya supported outright an CITES Appendix I listing for the species, which would have suspended international trade.

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