Will bluefin tuna fishing be shut down in the near future? According to the New York Times, an environmental advocacy group called the Center for Biological Diversity filed a request under the Endangered Species act, requesting that this fish be placed on the endangered species list – thus ending fishing for them. The request is, of course, nothing new. Different organizations have been calling for a complete shut-down on bluefins for many years now, as their numbers have dwindled. But there is something else that’s new…

In the Times article they interviewed Dr. Barbara Block, one of the world’s foremost experts on bluefin. And according to her, the oil spill in the Gulf changes the bluefin’s prospects. “The concern for wildlife is not just along the coast; it is also at sea. We’re putting oil right into the bluewater environment,” she said. “One of the spawning areas in the gulf favored by bluefin is in the vicinity of the spill.”

There’s no doubt that eggs and plankton coming into contact with the oil will die, so Block and other scientists are worried that huge numbers of the tuna’s offspring won’t have a prayer.

Of course, for recreational fishermen up and down the Atlantic, bluefin fishing has already been effectively shut down. With a limit of one fish per day between 27″ and 59″ in length, few to no boats will target these fish. Would you burn out your fuel tanks, buy bait and ice, and get up at zero-dark-early to potentially catch one fish? We didn’t think so. Charters can still target them, with a two fish limit including larger fish, but the average recreational guy is out of the game.

Usually, this unfair  split in the regulations would be something to complain about. But considering the fact that Block and people like her feel the spill may have a significant impact on this already depleted fishery, maybe the de facto shut-down is a good thing.

“The oil spill could be the last straw with these very vulnerable species,” said Ellen Peel, President of the Billfish Foundation. Maybe so – and maybe it’s time for the charters to shut down on this one, too.

bluefin tuna fishing shut down

Bluefin tuna like this one caught at "The Ham Bone" are yet another species likely to be affected by the Gulf oil spill.