New Rule Puts Spawning Bluefin Tuna at Risk
Seven years ago, the IGFA, working alongside the American Bluefin Tuna Association and the Pew Charitable Trusts, advocated for time/area closures that would protect spawning western Atlantic bluefin tuna from longlining in the Gulf of Mexico. When the dust settled, we were successful in getting two gear restricted areas (GRAs) in the Gulf that prohibited longlining during the months of April and May—the peak spawning time for western Atlantic Bluefin Tuna.
The two Gulf of Mexico GRAs, totaling just under 27,000 square miles, were put into force in 2015. And they worked. In the first three years of the closures, bluefin mortality decreased by 88% in April and 81% in May. This is significant because the Gulf of Mexico is the western Atlantic stock’s primary spawning location and the stock is severely depleted at only 18% of what it was in 1950.
Unfortunately, in July 2019, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a draft rule with a preferred option that would reopen these GRAs to longlining during peak spawning season. The IGFA has issued a number comments to NMFS urging them not to reopen these GRAs in order to give spawning bluefin tuna the protection that they desperately need. However, in January of this year, NMFS published a Final Regulatory Amendment on modifying the existing GRAs and we are expecting a Final Rule to be published by the end of April.
The IGFA, the American Bluefin Tuna Association, the American Sportfishing Association and Pew Charitable Trusts issued a joint comment letter to NMFS late last month. Take a look at what we have to say about reopening the Gulf of Mexico to longlining. It just doesn’t make sense.