The federal agency that manages marine endangered species announced Wednesday that it’s considering a ban on recreational or commercial fishing of a species of tuna that extremely popular among fans of sashimi.
NMFS is opening a formal rulemaking process to determine whether it should add Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) to its list of fish species that must be released immediately if caught. The fish is sold in sushi joints as “maguro.”
Pacific bluefin catches have dropped dramatically in recent years, to the point where sport fishing now accounts for more of the U.S. catch than commercial fishing. And scientists say the species now stands at less than five percent of its historic numbers.
The move comes in response to an April petition by the Center for Biological Diversity asking NMFS to amend its Fishery Management Plan for U.S. West Coast Fisheries for Highly Migratory Species, a program that addresses Pacific Ocean fish who divide their time between the U.S. West Coast and places like Japan and Siberia. CBD’s petition asked NMFS to rewrite the plan to include a ban of catch of Pacific bluefin, or at least to implement annual catch limits and minimum sizes for the bluefin.
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