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

August 9, 2010

PENSACOLA, Fla. - The cap on the BP 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, 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."

Kilduff'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, policy director 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 is prized by sushi chefs. Last January, a 500-pound Pacific bluefin tuna sold for over $175,000 at a Tokyo fish market.

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

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL