NOAA considering listing bluefin tuna
75 Fed. Reg. 57431 (Tuesday, September 21, 2010) / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
50 CFR Parts 223 and 224 / Docket No. 100903415–04–02 / RIN 0648–XW96
Listing Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90–Day Finding on a Petition to List Atlantic Bluefin Tuna as Threatened or Endangered under the Endangered Species Act
SUMMARY: We, NMFS, announce a 90–day finding for a petition to list Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to designate critical habitat concurrently with a listing. We find that the petition presents substantial scientific information indicating the petitioned action may be warranted. We will conduct a status review of Atlantic bluefin tuna to determine if the petitioned action is warranted. To ensure that the review is comprehensive, we solicit information pertaining to this species from any interested party.
Atlantic bluefin tuna are found throughout the North Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas, including the Mediterranean Sea. They are pelagic, highly migratory species occupying coastal and open ocean areas up to depths of 200 meters. The Atlantic bluefin tuna is the largest of the tuna species. Maximum lengths can exceed 4 meters (m) (13.1 feet), and weights of up to 900 kilograms. Bluefin tuna flesh is the darkest and fattiest of any tuna. Because of its high fat content, bluefin is especially prized as sushi and sashimi. A higher fat content in bluefin is equated with a higher quality product. Also, because of the high fat content, cooking is not advised as it produces a strong fish taste and odor when cooked. Photo above of Bluefin tuna on sale in Tsukiji Market, Tokyo, by Sanctu, available from Wild Ocean Blue. Photo below of Atlantic bluefin tuna cruising through the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary during their annual migrations up the eastern seaboard, from NOAA.
EXCERPT RE: DECLINE: The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed western Atlantic bluefin tuna as critically endangered with an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future. According to IUCN, the population meets the critically endangered criteria of having declined in excess of 80 percent over the last 10 years or 3 generations.
EXCERPT RE: BP GULF OIL SPILL: The petitioners (Center for Biological Diversity) contend that oil and gas activities in the Gulf of Mexico pose a significant threat to the only known spawning grounds for the western Atlantic bluefin tuna population. According to CBD, the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico occurred during spawning in the only known spawning grounds of the western Atlantic stock and is, therefore, likely to have significant longterm effects on bluefin tuna, possibly having the potential to devastate the population. In response to the oil spill, NMFS is examining, among other things, the historical distributions of spawners and larvae, as well as the distributions expected this year based on maps of optimal larval habitat, to determine the overlap of the oil spill with spawning bluefin tuna and their progeny (C. Porch, NMFS, personal communication, 2010). It is not known how long the oil will remain in the Gulf and what the long-term effects to fish exposed to non-lethal concentrations of oil may be; however, the best available information on the effects from the oil spill to Atlantic bluefin tuna will need to be considered during the status review, including the results of current research and analyses being undertaken by NMFS.
KEITHINKING: The decision certainly responds to the looming threat of litigation, see Riverfront Times, but now what? World Wildlife Fund declares the species to be in crisis, but CITES has declined to protect the species, despite human appetites. The Boston Herald says that sushi chefs are already looking for alternatives, and the difficult process of aquaculture may be an important option, suggest Discovery and Plenty Magazine and the BBC... if it is not already too late to avoid extinction. After all, the BP gulf oil spill (and its dispersant use) came at a particularly bad time for the species, affecting their spawning habitat during the spawning season. See IPSnews. As noted in recent news coverage, Congressional leaders fear that this potential listing makes U.S fisheries bear the brunt of international excess. Perhaps the Sea Shepard can look forward to a new mission, and "Whale Wars" can spawn a "Tuna Wars" sequel? Then again, according to Sea Shepard Conservation Society, even some Japanese experts are admitting that they have made a massive mistake...