The ocean is an abundant resource; however, overutilization is becoming an increasing threat to biodiversity. Approximately 90% of the ocean’s fisheries are overexploited, fully exploited, or have collapsed entirely. The issue of overfishing arose in the mid-1900s after the industrialization of the fishing industry. Once dominated by local fishermen, the industry now features commercial fleets with the technology to locate, extract, and process large numbers of specific fish species. An early 2000s study reported that only 10% of large ocean fish remained after years of industrial fishing, including the highly migratory Pacific Bluefin Tuna (“PBT”).
In 2016, the PBT was at a historical low –– only 2.6% of its unfished population size. In response, several environmental groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity, petitioned the Secretary of Commerce through the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”), to list the PBT as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”). NMFS, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, issued a preliminary finding that listing may be warranted. Following the twelve-month review, the agency published in the Federal Register a finding that listing was not warranted. However, However, that finding was incorrect because it relied on regulations that perpetuate overutilization by mischaracterizing both fish stocks and reproductive potential, thus overestimating the species’ capacity to avoid extinction.
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