Dwindling populations of Atlantic bluefin tuna need help. In 2011 the feds identified bluefin tuna as a "species of concern." They fell short of protecting the giant fish under the Endangered Species Act but promised to revisit the decision in 2013 -- or as soon as information was available on the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
Crude oils are highly toxic to developing fish embryos, and many pelagic fish were spawning in the northern Gulf in the months before oil spill's containment. We can't wait for more information.
The government has a new proposal for bluefin fishing management, but the proposal falls short on protections bluefin tuna need to make a comeback. It's missing very basic measures including protecting all spawning grounds for the duration of the bluefin spawning season and requiring independent observers to verify reported data for all commercial fishing vessels.
There's still a chance to put these necessary regulations into place. Please take action today: Urge the National Marine Fisheries Service to end overfishing of bluefin tuna through key fishery management measures.
Please take advantage of this historic opportunity to end overfishing of Atlantic bluefin tuna so these struggling populations can recover to a healthy level. Reduced levels of top predators have far-reaching consequences for many other animals, and Atlantic bluefin tuna play an important role in our ocean ecosystem as a large, highly migratory predator.
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Many pelagic fish were spawning in the northern Gulf in the months before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill's containment, and crude oils are highly toxic to developing fish embryos. Deepwater oil and gas activities, climate change and fishing risk wiping out some of our most vulnerable ocean life and irreversibly compromising bluefin tuna's essential habitat.
I support increased monitoring of commercial fishing -- including electronic monitoring and expanded automated catch reporting to include discards from the fishermen targeting bluefin tuna (the general and harpoon categories). I request that the accuracy of this data be verified through required observer coverage in all commercial fishing sectors.
I also urge the National Marine Fisheries Service to adopt the proposed restriction of longlines in the Gulf of Mexico to protect reproducing bluefin tuna. The Service should expand this proposal to all bluefin tuna spawning areas in the Gulf of Mexico from March through May at a minimum -- but preferably for the entire spawning season, which spans February to June. It is especially important to protect the entire spawning season -- ocean warming may require bluefin tuna to spawn earlier. I also support the Cape Hatteras gear-restricted area to further reduce longline bycatch of bluefin tuna.
To augment these closures, I encourage the Service to implement a strict annual bluefin catch cap with an individual quota and increased observer coverage to ensure these measures are effective.
The Service must also consult the Endangered Species Act and essential fish habitat provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act when deciding.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I am hopeful that the Service will strengthen this rule as outlined above to ensure it will help stop the waste of Atlantic bluefin tuna.