Saving Giants

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | December 10, 2009 11:37 am

A favorite friend of mine at Duke is Dr. Andre Boustany; a marine biologist who is part of the intrepid Tag-A-Giant team and Project GLoBAL. Tag-A-Giant is an initiative made up of an incredible group of ocean scientists from across the U.S. who work with policymakers, fishermen, and the public to maintain and rebuild sustainable bluefin tuna populations–a species facing commercial extinction due to demand for sushi.

But this is a tragic story: Western Atlantic bluefin have declined by 82% since 1970 and it’s estimated there are only remaining 41,000 remaining reproductively mature individuals:

Picture 6

YOU can do something that matters to protect these magnificent giants.

Next March, an upcoming vote on a proposal will take place to stop the international commercial trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Unfortunately, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has also proposed a measure to increase the number of bluefin tuna that can be harvested from U.S. waters. (Proposed Rule, RIN 0648-AX85, Atlantic Highly Migratory Species; Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Season and Retention Limit Adjustments). At a time when the world is paying attention to a species in crisis, our country is not exactly setting a good example. Of course, this a complicated issue: Catch limits are presently not being met, but the discrepancy is due to regional changes, an altered population structure, and overall stock depletion. Regardless, the solution is assuredly not to increase pressure on a dwindling stock.

The Pew Environmental Group has issued a letter asking NMFS to extend the comment period on their proposal, consider additional scientific research, and allow the international community to make important decisions regarding the future of management. I hope readers and bloggers alike will join me in signing Pew’s important letter and telling NMFS to slow down this misguided proposal.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Conservation, Marine Science
MORE ABOUT: bluefin tuna, NMFS

Comments (5)

Links to this Post

  1. Losing the Lions of the Ocean | Deep Sea News | December 15, 2009
  1. Oh, come on! Tuna were never this large. How could they fit in the can if they were that big?

    Those pictures of large tuna are clearly CGI, and the whole panic is designed to ensure funding for Big Ichthyology.

    You People are only doing this because you hate free enterprise and America and probably want us all to eat tofu.

    It’s not going to work. You didn’t convince me of heliocentrism or global warming and I don’t believe this.

  2. The NMFS proposal is only to increase the bag limit in a rod and reel category that has not been catching its share of the total US quota. The total US quota will be reduced againa in 2010 by another hundred tons down to 1,800 tons. Thus the quota has been reduced over the last few years from 2,700 mt to 1,800 tons and the western stock is projected to be fully rebuilt in 2017. Currently, the stock is not longer being overfished under the new quota.

  3. Terry Gibson

    Don’t listen to the paid contrarians who are encouraging a race to kill the last bluefin in the western Atlantic. Thanks to rampant over-fishing with pernicious gear like longlines, which kill many types of marine life, we’ve already lost other Atlantic sub-populations of bluefin, and the western Atlantic stock has been reduced to a point that it can barely sustain itself. Those who greedily massacre and export these magnificent fish for wild profits abroad, usually to Japan, have destroyed many fishing opportunities for the fishing public. A much more sustainable and economically beneficial way to manage the species is to ban international trade of bluefin, and to protect their only known spawning aggregation in the western Atlantic, which is below the Gulf of Mexico. Unbelievably, the NMFS wants to allow the commercial sector to kill even more bluefin, despite their near collapse. The third quarter update for 2009 clearly has bluefin tuna as overfished and undergoing overfishing. Here are links to the data/status:

  4. Charlie, the “Chicken of the Sea” clearly needs to go on a diet! The other “fish” looks to me like a Beluga Whale, (I know, that would make it a mammal, which is why I put fish in these things, “fish”). I would hope that the picture is an example of perspective, and the whale is much farther away. If not, we are clearly doomed… DOOMED I say!


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry.Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.comFor more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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