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Oil Spill Controlled, But Future Of Bluefin Tuna Is Less Certain

July 26, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - The cap on the Gulf oil well may have stopped the spilling, but the oil still carries dangers for marine life, with marine conservation groups and fishing organizations pointing to Atlantic bluefin tuna as one of the species at highest risk because it spawns in the Gulf this time of year.

Catherine Kilduff, oceans attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco, says the oil will likely be devastating to the species, which is already in decline.

"The oil can affect eggs and the larvae, as well as be incorporated into the plankton, and the things that larvae and the juvenile fish eat. And so, we're worried about both oil and the dispersants, which studies have shown are toxic to eggs, larvae and fish."

Kidluff's group has filed a petition to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act. She says overfishing has already wiped out 80 percent of the bluefin tuna in the North Atlantic, and now the Gulf oil spill threatens the western populations.

Richard Charter, senior policy director for marine programs with Defenders of Wildlife, says it's hard to predict the impact the spill will have on wildlife, but it could be significant for the bluefin.

"You interrupt that spawning event for bluefin tuna with a toxic oil spill and with dispersants that dissolve oil - and the egg of the bluefin is primarily oil-related - then, you could actually knock out a whole year-class of fish that was already in trouble."

The bluefin tuna, which is prized by sushi chefs, is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's popular Seafood Watch List as a fish to avoid eating because of its dwindling numbers.

More information is available at www.biologicaldiversity.org and at
www.defenders.org

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA