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For Immediate Release, April 8, 2011

Contact: Catherine Kilduff, (415) 644-8580

More than 22,000 Pledge Support for Saving Imperiled Bluefin Tuna

Supporters' Signatures Presented to Obama Administration Ahead of
Decision on Endangered Species Act Protection for Rare Fish

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity today delivered to the Obama administration the names of more than 22,000 people from 104 countries who have pledged to boycott bluefin tuna as part of a larger campaign to save this imperiled fish from extinction. The signatures were submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is poised to decide next month on a petition from the Center to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act. If approved, the listing could prohibit the trade and sale of bluefin tuna in the United States as early as May 2012.

“Saving bluefin tuna from extinction will require cutting consumer demand for this high-priced sushi item and implementing real protections that will finally put a halt to overfishing,” said Catherine Kilduff, a Center staff attorney.

Bluefin boycottThe Center launched the bluefin boycott Nov. 30, 2010, after the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas refused to act to protect the Atlantic bluefin tuna, which has dropped by about 80 percent since 1970.

Since then, more than 22,000 people have signed on to the boycott. Dozens of the signers are chefs and owners of seafood and sushi restaurants — including prominent chefs like Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and Dan Barber of Blue Hill in Manhattan — who have pledged not to serve bluefin in their restaurants.

“Dollars spent on bluefin tuna support unsustainable and often illegal fishing around the world,” Kilduff said. “In 2010, the United States imported $11.6 million worth of Atlantic bluefin tuna, with almost half of that amount going directly to Spain, a fishing power that frustrates international efforts to secure meaningful bluefin tuna protections. Because these imported bluefin tuna cross the Atlantic Ocean, buying bluefin is paying other countries to take them out of our waters. Rebuilding the bluefin tuna population and restoring our oceans requires breaking this consumer-driven cycle.”

Some Atlantic bluefin tuna spawn exclusively in the Gulf of Mexico from March through June. Now, a year after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed an estimated 20 percent of juvenile bluefin tuna, the bluefin tuna are returning to the Gulf of Mexico even while the government continues to permit drilling without fully understanding either the cause or the ecological effects of the spill.

Southern bluefin tuna, fished around Australia, are critically endangered according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Meanwhile, the overfishing of baby Pacific bluefin tuna risks the population’s sudden and irreversible collapse; 70 percent of these fish are caught before they are a year old and more than 90 percent before they are two years old.

Bluefin tuna are oceangoing fish that can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh 1,200 pounds. Unlike almost all other fish, they are warm-blooded and able to regulate their body temperature, which helps during their epic transatlantic journeys. Top ocean predators, they sometimes hunt cooperatively, much like wolves. With streamlined bodies and retractable fins, they can bolt through water at speeds of 50 miles per hour, crossing oceans in weeks.

Bluefin, which remain a staple in some sushi restaurants, have been declining for decades due to overfishing. A record-breaking $396,000 bluefin tuna was sold at auction in January 2011.

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