NOAA Says Bluefin Not Endangered

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NOAA Says Bluefin Not Endangered

RFA Praises Decision on Behalf of U.S. Coastal Fishermen....

Prior to the Memorial Day Weekend, NOAA announced that Atlantic bluefin tuna do not warrant species protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The agency did say however they are committed to revisiting their decision by early 2013, when more information is available on the effects of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill, as well as a new stock assessment from the scientific arm of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).  NOAA is formally designating both the western Atlantic and eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks of bluefin tuna as "species of concern" under ESA, which officially places the species on a watch list for concerns about its status and threats to the species.

Efforts to get an ESA listing for bluefin where vehemently opposed by the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) which had gone on record with NOAA arguing that such a move was not only unwarranted, but would also unjustly punish U.S fishermen for the sins of European nations fishing over their quota in the Eastern Atlantic.  "An ESA listing not only would've put an end to angler harvest as well as catch and release fishing for bluefin, it could've also led to serious restrictions on other related fisheries," RFA Executive Director Jim Donofrio, adding "this decision by NOAA is good news for coastal anglers."

In a November, 2010 letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Donofrio said a more productive and meaningful approach to managing bluefin stocks would be to demand compliance with ICCAT quotas by all contracting members. "U.S. fishermen should not carry the entire burden of rebuilding this important fishery. Nor will imposing ESA based regulations in U.S. waters increase the likelihood that ICCAT contracting members will comply with agreed upon quotas. The obvious and most effective solution to end habitual noncompliance is the use of trade sanctions initiated under section 301 of the U.S. trade law," Donofrio wrote.

RFA's continued stance is that the most sensible U.S. solution to the global bluefin management issue is through the U.S. Trade Act of 1974, specifically section 301, which would allow the President to take all appropriate action, including retaliation, to obtain the removal of any act, policy, or practice of a foreign government that violates an international trade agreement or is unjustified, unreasonable, or discriminatory, and that burdens or restricts U.S. commerce.  In an official statement, Donofrio reiterated RFA's longstanding position.

"It's been well-established through ICCAT and our own State Department that the European Union (EU) has been overfishing their quotas for years, even subsidizing the expansion of their national bluefin tuna fleets.  The EU keeps overfishing the stock, the Japanese keep buying up the illegal harvest, and here in the United States a well-financed environmental movement is punishing our American anglers through attempts to take away both our minimal harvest and overall sportfishing opportunities for this amazing fish." 

"RFA is one of a few groups to have openly lobbied for international trade sanctions against the EU for most of this decade, and we would welcome the support of well-financed environmental radicals to fight the proper fight on behalf of protecting the bluefin resources, and that's by pressuring the Department of Commerce to press for international trade sanctions against those nations who continue to defy international recommendations on bluefin quota. Both recreational and commercial fishermen in the U.S. have made the necessary sacrifices to bring bluefin tuna back, and given the fact that an ESA listing would only apply to U.S. citizens, clearly this is not the tool for proper protection of global fish stocks." 

"If Center for Biological Diversity and its financial allies were truly interested in doing what's right for bluefin tuna, they'd put up some of their untold millions towards helping cure the disease as opposed to simply treating the symptoms by senselessly beating up America's fishermen.Grossly irresponsible and illegal fishing practices which negatively impact both marlin and tuna populations on a global level must be reined in.  U.S. fishermen could certainly use the help in getting the attention of our State Department that these wanton violations of international trade agreements between participating nations is hurting the entire global fishery which includes both the fish and the fishermen.  Giving the President the power of international trade sanctions against offending parties is the best solution for protecting the fish and supporting our U.S. fishing communities."

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