The Trump administration declined a petition to list the Pacific bluefin tuna as “endangered” Tuesday after the Department of Commerce (DOC) found that the fish was not facing any significant threat of extinction.
A petition from the Center of Biological Diversity to list the fish under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) triggered the Commerce Department’s review. The review began under former President Barack Obama, and lasted for 12 months before the DOC’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued its findings, according to the notice published in the Federal Register.
The Center for Biological Diversity claimed the tuna was at risk of extinction, based on findings by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
“The petition to list Pacific bluefin tuna identified the risk classification made by the IUCN,” the notice published in the Federal Register said. “Species classifications under IUCN and the ESA are not equivalent; data standards, criteria used to evaluate species, and treatment of uncertainty are not necessarily the same.”
The ruling surprised the petitioners after early NMFS statements about the review appeared to agree that the tuna needed protection.
However, “based on the best scientific and commercial data available, including the status review report, and after taking into account efforts being made to protect the species, we have determined that listing of the Pacific bluefin tuna is not warranted,” the NMFS said.
An “endangered” listing in the United States would do little to protect the Pacific bluefin tuna. U.S. fishermen only accounted for 2 percent of the roughly 37 million pounds of Pacific bluefin caught in 2014, NPR reports.
The amount of tuna imported into the U.S. is also low — only 3 percent in 2014 — according to federal catch data.
Conservationists are calling for a sushi boycott until the Pacific bluefin is protected under the ESA.
“Pacific bluefin tuna will spiral toward extinction unless we protect them. The Endangered Species Act works, but not when the Trump administration ignores the plight of animals that need help,” Center for Biological Diversity attorney Catherine Kilduff said in a statemement. “This disappointing decision makes it even more important for consumers and restaurateurs to boycott bluefin until the species recovers.”
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