For Immediate Release
Turtle Island Restoration Network
Legal Program Co-Director
Turtle Island Restoration Network
Olema, Calif. (Dec. 19, 2014) — Turtle Island Restoration Network delivered more than 3,800 petitions to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) supporting greater protections for Atlantic bluefin tuna populations. After five years of work by Turtle Island, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and our partners, on Dec. 2, 2014, NOAA Fisheries officially announced new, stricter regulations for the U.S. Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery.
The new regulations governing the fishery will begin to go into effect on January 1, 2015 and once implemented, will provide important new protections for bluefin from restricting the use of longlines in areas of high bluefin abundance to limiting incidental bluefin mortality on surface longlines to requiring enhanced monitoring on board vessels.
“This is a victory,” said Todd Steiner, Biologist and Executive Director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “Bluefin tuna finally have the protections in place they need to recover. We look forward to witnessing their come-back.”
Under the revised Final Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan key spawning grounds for bluefin tuna will be closed to surface longline fishing vessels during the tuna’s peak spawning season in the Gulf of Mexico, and during peak feeding times for the fish off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. In total more than 32,000 square miles of ocean will be off-limits to the destructive longline fishery and set aside during critical months to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna populations.
Additionally, all longline vessels fishing for bluefin tuna will now have 100 percent observer coverage with video cameras and recording equipment monitoring fishing practices and enforcing the bycatch cap.
“NOAA Fisheries Service is adopting and using the new technology to ensure that Bluefin Tuna populations remain healthy, and part of our oceans for future generations,” said Doug Karpa of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “This is what modern fisheries management should look like, and we hope that NOAA Fisheries will adopt similar more comprehensive approaches in managing other U.S. fisheries.”
ABOUT ATLANTIC BLUEFIN TUNA:
Atlantic bluefin tuna are one of the fastest and largest fish in the sea. Despite their speed and size, hundreds of metric tons of bluefin are killed as bycatch each year in the U.S. longline fishery that targets yellowfin tuna and swordfish. This is a particularly harmful practice in the Gulf of Mexico, which is the only known spawning ground for western Atlantic bluefin tuna. Due to overfishing, bluefin tuna populations have plummeted to just 35 percent of their 1970 levels. Bluefin tuna are used in sushi and sashimi, and can fetch as much as $10,000 on the market according to Pew Charitable Trusts.
Longlines stretch up to 60 nautical miles long and 1,150 feet deep, and are laced with thousands of hooks that indiscriminately catch, drown and kill marine wildlife. These vast death traps cover huge swaths of the ocean and capture as bycatch humpback and sperm whales, false killer whales, sea turtles, dolphins, sharks and seabirds.
Turtle Island Restoration Network is an international marine conservation organization headquartered in California whose 150,000+ members and online activists work to protect marine biodiversity in the United States and around the world. For 25 years, Turtle Island Restoration Network has mobilized people to preserve oceans, restore rivers and streams, and protect the marine wildlife – from sea turtles to sharks – that call these blue-green waters home. For more information, visit www.SeaTurtles.org.