Oil Spill Impact on Bluefin Tuna To Be Studied

BP spill happened at peak of bluefin spawning season

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It ain’t easy being an Atlantic bluefin tuna—the tastiest, priciest and perhaps unluckiest tuna of them all. A good specimen can bring $100,000, so it’s hunted relentlessly by Atlantic fishing fleets. More damage is done in the Gulf of Mexico, where longline fishermen inadvertently pillage tuna stock while seeking other species.

Until last April, the beleaguered fish could at least count on a spot in the Gulf to spawn, but—if you remember—April is when the BP oil well exploded, gushing hundreds of millions of gallons of oil directly into the tuna’s boudoir, at the height of their spawning season.

It’s anybody’s guess how this year’s tuna spawn was affected by all that oil, mixed with nearly 200,000 gallons of toxic dispersant, but now a government agency has announced its intent to take away the guesswork. In direct response to pressure from environmental groups.

The National Marine Fisheries will conduct a year-long study to determine whether the tuna should be protected by the Endangered Species Act.

The study is good news to Earthjustice and its clients who have fought for years to protect the bluefin from longliners. The NMFS study should determine whether all that effort has been for naught.

From 2006–2014, Terry was managing editor for Earthjustice's blog, online monthly newsletter and print Earthjustice Quarterly Magazine.