Bluefin tuna fishing : Ban or no ban?Toxic : Oil and dispersants have made the Gulf Coast uninhabitable for marine animals.

As fisheries regulators meet to weigh the fate of Atlantic bluefin tuna, they are coming under mounting pressure to suspend the entire bluefin industry until allegations of mismanagement can be resolved.

The Madrid-based International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the body responsible for managing tuna fishing, gathered in Paris on Nov. 17 to assess the state of bluefin tuna fisheries and set future catch quotas.

But the meeting will be overshadowed by a report, which documents a decade of illegal fishing of eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks, leading to the fishery’s near-collapse and a black market worth around $4 billion.

A single Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) can weigh more than 500 kilograms and sell for more than $100,000 in Japanese markets. But the profitable market for the species has left it depleted to roughly 35 percent of its historic levels, according to ICCAT.

The new report – “Looting the Seas” – is the culmination of an eight-month investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a group formed by the non-profit Center for Public Integrity in Washington. “Those of us who have worked on bluefin tuna aren’t surprised,” says Sue Liebermann, Director of International Policy at the Pew Environment Group in Washington, a non-profit conservation advocacy group.

“All the information on the fraud, the illegal trade, and the doctoring of paperwork is now fully documented,” she adds.

Anjali Nayar
Nature News

Brown oil and silvery sheen

We had four co-travellers: Jonathan Henderson, Randy, Craig and guide. It was August 16, the day several of Louisiana’s fisheries were reopened for catching shrimp.

We passed a fisher coming back. “How did you do out there?” Craig asked him. “Nothing at all,” the fisher replied. “How much do you usually catch?” Craig asked. “Hundreds of pounds (a pound is 0.45 kg). Some times a thousand pounds,” came the reply. Craig looked at me and said, “That’s not good.” Minutes later another fisher passed us. “How did you do?” Craig asked. “We caught 12,” he replied.

Before I take you through my journey, a reminder of the toxicity of the oil dispersants British Petroleum is using in the Gulf of Mexico. The US Environment Protection Agency found dispersant Corexit 9500, at a concentration of 42 parts per million, immediately killed half the shrimp tested. Most of the remaining shrimp died later.

On our journey, Craig said the water seemed odd. Oil and dispersants have made Gulf Coast uninhabitable for marine animals. The water had a silvery sheen as it splashed onto the sand. We shook our heads. We began walking and found tar balls everywhere. In some places, there were huge mats of fresh tar.

The farther inland we travelled, the worse it became. It was as though the island was a sponge filled with sheen and oil. Several inland pools were literally oil pits.

In one of the pools brown liquid oil floated where the sand underneath was black with crude oil. The scene was apocalyptic. Sorbent lied blackened and browned with oil it had absorbed. All we could do was take photos.

The stench was overpowering. My eyes watered from the chemicals in the air, but also from sadness. My throat was sore, my voice suddenly hoarse, and I felt dizzy. I looked over to see Erika taking photos, tears running down her cheeks.

“This is one of the worst I’ve seen,” said Jonathan, who had been out investigating the results of the BP oil disaster every week since it started in April. Thousands of lives along the Gulf Coast are being devastated by this disaster.

This is merely the beginning of yet another toxic epoch for the Gulf of Mexico, the people who live along the coast, the marine life and the wildlife that make their homes there.

Dahr Jamail
Down To Earth Feature Service

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