Center for Biological Diversity

Ban International Trade in Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

Bluefin tuna
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Overfishing has reduced Atlantic bluefin tuna populations by more than 80 percent since industrial fishing practices began and overfishing continues today. In large part, efforts to control fishing have failed because of illegal fishing and industry opposition to reductions in catch levels.High prices drive the lack of political will and stricter enforcement; this January, a 752-pound bluefin tuna sold for $396,000 ($527 per pound) to feed the global demand for high-grade sushi.

Right now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering which species to propose for listing on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Listing under CITES would ban international trade in bluefin tuna and shut down multimillion dollar bluefin tuna black markets. Without this international protection, Atlantic bluefin tuna are at risk of extinction -- because the National Marine Fisheries Service has already denied protections for the tuna under the Endangered Species Act, as requested by the Center for Biological Diversity, despite finding a risk of extinction if illegal fishing continues.

Atlantic bluefin are an amazing and magnificent fish, growing to almost ten feet and 900 pounds in 20 years and swimming up to speeds of 55 miles per hour. Warm-blooded and with the ability to cross oceans, these predators are a unique component of the marine ecosystem that we have yet to fully understand. Because they are highly migratory, they are especially vulnerable to overfishing in foreign countries and on the high seas, making catch limits nearly impossible to enforce.

At the height of awareness of illegal bluefin tuna fishing in the Mediterranean, scientists estimated that in 2007 the actual catch was likely double the amount fishermen reported catching. Even the amount fishermen reported catching exceeded the allowable catch by about 5,000 tons. Sadly, illegal bluefin tuna fishing has continued since 2007 despite public outcry and international efforts at better enforcement.

Decades of overexploitation and mismanagement have pushed the bluefin tuna so close to extinction that last month the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the lead international scientific experts on endangered species, assessed Atlantic bluefin tuna as Endangered

Please act now to voice your support for United States efforts for international protection for bluefin tuna.

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Bluefin tuna photo © Paul Colley.

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Additional Information

Italy and others cited for illegal fishing.

Libyan vessels not in compliance with bluefin requirements.

National Marine Fisheries service denies bluefin protections.

Petition filed to protect bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act.

IUCN scientists assess Atlantic bluefin as endangered.