Wildlife & Wild Places

The Bottom Line: Coming Together for Bluefin Tuna

It’s not every day that fishermen and environmentalists agree. But in a significant move, the American Bluefin Tuna Association and the International Game Fish Association are partnering with The Pew Charitable Trusts to protect bluefin tuna, one of the most amazing fish in the sea. By working together, we might be able to help ensure a brighter future for this depleted fish.

This summer, the Obama Administration is expected to issue new bluefin tuna regulations for U.S. fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the agency responsible for fisheries management, should seize this opportunity to protect bluefin tuna from dying needlessly on surface longlines.

This wasteful fishing gear stretches for 30 miles on average — a length equal to 528 football fields, dangling hundreds of baited hooks. Surface longlines are used to catch yellowfin tuna and swordfish, but they catch and kill bluefin and approximately 80 other species of ocean wildlife. Most of these animals are thrown overboard, dead or dying. Because the Gulf of Mexico is the only known spawning area for western Atlantic bluefin, NOAA’s proposed regulations should prohibit the use of surface longlines in the Gulf and encourage more selective alternative fishing gear.

The American Bluefin Tuna Association is a diverse organization made up of commercial, charter, and recreational fishermen, shoreside businesses, fish buyers, and many others from Maine to Florida involved in the U.S. bluefin fishery. The International Game Fish Association is a not-for-profit recreational fishing organization committed to the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices through science, education, rule-making, and record keeping. Thanks to this important opportunity presented by the proposed bluefin regulations, we have come together to work toward a common goal.

The regulations proposed by NOAA could drastically reduce the unintentional catch of bluefin tuna and protect its spawning ground. This will lead to a healthier bluefin population and will benefit coastal communities that fish for the species using selective methods.

We’re hopeful this partnership of fishermen and environmentalists will clearly illustrate to NOAA officials just how important bluefin tuna is to us all. By working together to end the waste of this remarkable fish, we can ensure a brighter future for this species and the fishermen who depend on it.

Lee Crockett joined The Pew Charitable Trusts in June 2007 as director of Federal Fisheries Policy. As Ddirector, U.S. Oceans, he led Pew’s efforts to establish policies to end overfishing and promote ecosystem-based fisheries management in the United States under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the federal law that governs ocean fish management. As director, Crockett oversees all of Pew’s U.S. fisheries campaigns. These include efforts in the Northeast, South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, U.S. Caribbean, and the Pacific. Before joining Pew, Crockett was executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network, the largest national coalition dedicated exclusively to promoting the sustainable management of ocean fish. Under his leadership, the campaign helped efforts to reauthorize and strengthen the MSA. Previously, he was a fishery biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, leading agency efforts to protect essential fish habitat. He also served as a staff member of the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, working on a variety of fisheries, environmental and boating safety issues. Crockett holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in biological oceanography from the University of Connecticut. Before college, he served in the U.S. Coast Guard. He’s also an avid angler who enjoys fishing the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.

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