OCEAN CITY — Federal fisheries management officials this morning announced an endangered or threatened listing for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, a staple of the resort area’s vast recreational fishery and important element in the multi-million sportfishing industry, is not warranted at this time, although bluefins remain on the “species of concern” list.
During a conference call on Friday morning, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Secretary for Conservation and Management Dr. Larry Robinson announced after months of careful review of the best scientific data available, the Atlantic bluefin tuna population figures do not require a listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
“After an extensive review, NOAA has concluded an endangered or threatened listing for Atlantic bluefin tuna is not warranted at this time,” said Robinson. “We remained concerned about the western Atlantic spawn and NOAA is committed to revisit the decision in 2013.”
Prompted in part by the oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico late last spring and throughout much of the summer, a national environmental group last May filed a formal petition seeking Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for Atlantic bluefin tuna. The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed a formal petition for an ESA listing for bluefin tuna, citing the continued overfishing of the species complicated by the oil spill disaster in the gulf and its potential devastating impact on the species’ spawning grounds.
The panel of scientists and fisheries managers on the conference call Friday morning said Atlantic bluefin tuna will remain on the species of concern list because the timing of the ESA review did not allow for a full accounting of the Gulf oil spill. The western population of Atlantic bluefin tuna spawn in the Gulf of Mexico and the long-term effects on the health of the population is still uncertain.
“We’re going to continue to review the data and closely monitor the health of the species until we know more about the impact of the BP oil spill,” said Eric Schwaab, Assistant NOAA Administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service.
Also of concern is the continued cooperation of foreign nations in the management of the species. The panel said there has been marked improvement in recent months among the nations targeting bluefin tuna, but the actions of international fishermen will continue to be closely monitored.
“The future of this species relies on sound international management,” said Schwaab.
See the complete story in next week’s issue of The Dispatch.