Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Leads Group to Seek Endangered Status for Bluefin Tuna

Last week swordfish fans rejoiced at news that the species had bounced back from overfishing.

Now it's time for bluefin tuna fans to panic. The Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit conservation group, has filed a formal petition to have the North Atlantic fish added to the endangered-species list.

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Prized for their rich, dark flesh, bluefin tuna have been in trouble owing to overfishing for some time, but the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has put the fish in even more peril. The oil and other toxic dispersants threaten to enter the tuna's spawning area during breeding season. The fish only breed in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Mediterranean Sea.

"Bluefin tuna encounter thousands of deadly hooks while migrating across the Atlantic, and now an oil spill will welcome home the survivors," says Center for Biological Diversity attorney Catherine Kilduff, who crafted the petition. "Bluefin tuna need the protection of the Endangered Species Act, which can provide an important safety net before bluefin tuna disappear entirely from the ocean."

The Japanese market for the sought-after species was an estimated $7.2 billion in 2009. Earlier this year European officials lobbied to ban bluefin fishing.

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