Earlier this year environmental organizations filed a petition to ban all fishing, including sportfishing, for bluefin tuna off the Pacific Coast. Taking exception, several conservation organizations representing anglers along the Pacific Coast and across the nation joined together to submit official comments to NOAA Fisheries opposing listing Pacific bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Joining the ASA were the Coastal Conservation Association, the Coastside Fishing Club and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. These groups responded that an ESA listing is not applicable, would be ineffective management policy and would unfairly harm sportfishing and related industries on the West Coast, especially in Southern California.
Scott Gudes, Vice President of Government Affairs at the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) noted: “Only 1.5% of Pacific bluefin tuna are harvested by U.S. anglers. Almost all bluefin tuna are, in fact, caught by foreign commercial fishermen overseas.”
The petition, if approved, would harm US sportfishermen and , would have no benefit on Pacific bluefin tuna stocks.
The United States Government, NOAA, and the international organizations responsible for management of tuna — Inter-American Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) — took action several years ago to reduce fishing pressure and conserve tuna fisheries. The most recent scientific data demonstrates that these international conservation efforts have been successful in stabilizing the global population. Stocks have begun rebuilding.
“We must rebuild the Pacific bluefin tuna stock, and management measures now show progress” said Marc Gorelnik, a member of the Pacific Fishery Management Council. He continued, “the reality is that the Pacific bluefin tuna is not in danger of extinction now or in the foreseeable future and a listing will not meaningfully accelerate stock rebuilding.”
Bluefin tuna are an important species to offshore recreational fishing in California along with other types of tuna and open ocean migratory fish. The tuna sportfishing industry along the Southern California coast generates more than $100 million in annual spending. Bill Shedd, President of the California Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association observed: “if this ESA listing is successful, recreational fishermen, guides and companies along the West Coast face possible negative impacts, including losses of revenue.”
NOAA solicited input on the ESA listing and the public comment period closed on December 12th. About 700 anglers have registered their concerns to NOAA through the Keep America Fishing website. A decision is likely by next summer.
“Anglers are conservationists. They recognize the need to sustainably manage tuna stocks for future generations, but in a manner that is fair and backed by science” responded ASA’s Gudes.