Stop the Killing of Bluefin Tuna

Western Atlantic bluefin tuna are in deep peril. This amazing fish that is as fast as 43 MPH and weighs up to 1,500 pounds is in danger of becoming extinct within 10 years. Rampant commercial fishing has reduced the mature population of this fish by 80 percent since 1970. Despite this, the federal government is proposing to increase the catch in the Gulf of Mexico, the only known spawning area for bluefin tuna in the western Atlantic Ocean.

Fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico targeting swordfish and yellowfin tuna deploy up to 40 miles of long-lines in the water with hundreds of baited hooks attached. During the 10 hours these long-lines are fishing, species that are supposed to be protected in the Gulf of Mexico -- including bluefin tuna, marlins and sea turtles -- are caught and killed. Instead of eliminating this wasteful fishing gear, the Federal government is proposing to allow commercial fishermen to kill and sell more bluefin tuna, despite the fact that their population is at the lowest levels on record.

Please take a moment to let the National Marine Fisheries Service know that they must stop the use of long-lines in the Gulf of Mexico to catch swordfish and yellowfin tuna. Other less wasteful fishing gear is available to catch swordfish and yellowfin tuna that will not jeopardize the future existence of bluefin tuna.
Subject: Stop Long-Lining in the Gulf of Mexico: RIN 0648-AX85

Dear Ms. Margo Schulze-Haugen,

I urge the National Marine Fisheries Service to stop the use of pelagic long-lines to fish for swordfish and yellowfin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico. Long-lines are a highly wasteful means for fishing for swordfish and yellowfin tuna, creating unnecessary and unjustifiable mortality of critically endangered species such as bluefin tuna.

According to National Marine Fisheries Service data, the U.S. pelagic long-line fleet discarded 11,823 swordfish, 1,345 bluefin tuna, 34,611 sharks, 611 blue marlin, 744 white marlin, 321 sailfish and 300 turtles in 2007, the vast majority of which were dead or dying. With more than 40 percent of the long-line fishing effort concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico, eliminating long-lining in this area will significantly reduce bycatch and promote sustainable fisheries.

Not only does the National Marine Fisheries Service allow this wasteful type of fishing, but in its advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, the Service proposes increasing the amount of endangered bluefin tuna that long-line fisherman can kill and sell. Given the severely depleted status of these magnificent fish, the fact that the long-line fishery is being allowed to kill any of these fish while they are reproducing is unacceptable. Instead of increasing the number of bluefin tuna fishermen in the Gulf are allowed to kill and sell, the National Marine Fisheries Service should eliminate the use of long-line gear in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the number of mature western bluefin tuna has declined more than 80 percent since 1970, and scientists estimate that there may be fewer than 20,000 adults remaining in the population that spawns in the Gulf of Mexico. By allowing more bluefin tuna to be killed and sold, the National Marine Fisheries Service is essentially proposing to create economic incentives for long-line fishermen to target spawning bluefin tuna. This will undercut efforts to rebuild bluefin tuna populations and keep this iconic species from going extinct.

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