National Policy

Unlikely Allies Team Up For Tuna

More than 7,000 people submitted pictures of themselves to help create this bluefin tuna photomosaic based on an image by Dr. Guy Harvey.

Andy Revkin of The New York Times gave space in his Dot Earth blog this week for discussion on Atlantic bluefin tuna, just as the public comment period on a proposed rule on tuna fishing winds down (the deadline for comment is this Friday).

Revkin posted a “My Dot” column from Lee Crockett, U.S. Oceans director for The Pew Charitable Trusts. As Talking Fish has reported, Crockett is critical of some parts of what NOAA fisheries officials are proposing.

“The most controversial part of the proposal is a large increase in the quota for the fishermen who use surface longlines,” Crockett wrote, when “their method of fishing has essentially been the problem.”

Surface longline vessels needlessly killed and discarded nearly a quarter of the United States’ entire bluefin quota in 2012, an estimated 239.5 metric tons of dead Atlantic bluefin tuna. NOAA’s proposal would give those fishermen more quota to make up for their waste.

As Crockett pointed out, that effectively denies those fish to the bluefin tuna fishermen who use more selective gear—many of them here in New England, where rod and reel or harpoons are the preferred gear.

“In short, NOAA’s solution to the incidental catch of bluefin tuna by surface longline fishermen is to allow them a larger share of the quota,” Crockett wrote. “That’s not conservation, that’s a giveaway.”

The comments from Dot Earth readers showed that Pew has some unlikely allies on this issue. David Schalit, a bluefin fisherman from New York, wrote that he and others in the industry rarely see eye-to-eye with Pew. “You might say that, in the past, we were arch enemies,” Schalit wrote. But now, he said, they have “achieved an historic alliance.”

“Much to our surprise we have found that we are in complete agreement as to how this problem should be solved,” Schalit wrote. “I hope that we can continue this excellent work in the future.”


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