A petition to list Pacific bluefin tuna under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) has alarmed and angered recreational anglers along the southern California coast, and with good reason. The implications of an ESA-listing for recreational angling would be profound and almost wholly ineffective. This the second effort to list a bluefin tuna species without sufficient evidence of its needing threatened or endangered status under the ESA, and in response the sportfishing community has mounted a united response in opposition.
In a letter to NOAA Fisheries, CCA, CCA California, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the American Sportfishing Association and Coastside Fishing Club point out that any decision to list Pacific Bluefin Tuna (PBT) must apply the best available scientific and commercial information and, when this is done dispassionately and without speculation, the necessary conclusion is that the PBT does not meet the standard for listing as threatened or endangered.
“The best scientific data collected most recently demonstrates that the global PBT stock has stabilized and begun the rebuilding process. Multiple multilateral international groups are very active in PBT management and have in recent years implemented regulatory mechanisms that show sign they are working already,” the groups state. “Listing the PBT under the ESA would do nothing to promote the species’ conservation, while causing unnecessary and significant economic harm to America’s angling community along the Pacific Coast.”
Few in the sportfishing conservation community do not agree that bluefin tuna in the Pacific are under tremendous global pressure and all have a history of support for strong domestic and international conservation measures and low annual quotas for this species. However, an ESA listing is the wrong approach which is why CCA California has joined forces with other national groups to oppose the petition. An ESA listing will impact only U.S. citizens fishing in U.S. waters. ESA action on a species like bluefin only pays lip service to conservation and would do nothing to solve the international fisheries management problems that are at the true heart of the species’ decline.
There are real conservation concerns about the future of Pacific bluefin, but the broad-brush application of an ESA-listing is simply misguided. American anglers are not responsible for driving bluefin tuna into its current condition, and CCA California will continue working with its partners to insist the United States take a leadership role in implementing meaningful international management measures where they will have the greatest impact.