Map of the length of time oil was in the Gulf. The lightest orange indicates 1-3 weeks coverage; the darkest is 16-18 weeks. Image: European Space Agency
Six months from the start of the BP oil spill and we now know the answer to the question of how badly the spill would hurt spawning bluefin tuna. New satellite data from the European Space Agency shows 20% of juvenile bluefin tuna killed by oil. Which is pretty significant since Atlantic bluefin have declined over 80% in the past 30 years, and at current fishing rates the critically endangered fish will be extinct by 2012.Things could have been much worse though. The ESA analysis shows that the main spawning hotspot for bluefin to the west of the spill area was unaffected by pollution.
When bluefin tuna breed, females release eggs into the water and males following behind fertilize them. After hatching the larvae begin searching for food near the surface of the water. Which in the case of the BP oil spill meant they came into contact will the oil, which killed them.
Catherine Kilduff of the Center for Biological Diversity commented,
This study confirms our worst fears about the oil spill's impacts on bluefin tuna and provides more evidence that this species needs the Endangered Species Act to survive. The federal government could have predicted the effects of the spill during spawning season prior to the disaster; listing Atlantic bluefin tuna as endangered will prevent such an oversight from ever occurring again.
Japan is by far the world's largest consumer of bluefin tuna, photo: Stewart Butterfield/Creative Commons
International Ban on Bluefin Needed for Recovery
Which is true, but to give the Atlantic bluefin tuna any chance of recovery an international ban on trade in the species is what is required.
Such a ban was rejected at the last CITES meeting, with pressure from Japan, the world's largest consumer of bluefin, and from some European nations, who fear the impact on their fishing industry of ban, scuttling the proposal--which had backing of the United States, the UK, Monoco and some other European nations.
Current quota levels for the fish are already set too high to allow recovery of the species, with actual catch of the fish far exceeding these officially sanctioned levels.
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More on Bluefin Tuna:
Mitsubishi Hopes To Profit From Bluefin Tuna Decline
Endangered Bluefin Tuna Fetches Record Price at Tokyo Auction
Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Will Be Gone by 2012 At Current Fishing Rates
Sea Shepherd Saves 800 Endangered Bluefin Tuna From Poachers - With Rotten Butter