The National Marine Fisheries Service is recommending that the Atlantic bluefin tuna's spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico be designated a federal Habitat Area of Particular Concern (HAPC). The recommendation, part of a new draft Essential Fish Habitat Amendment to the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan, "would highlight the importance of the area for bluefin tuna spawning and provide added conservation benefits if steps are taken to reduce impacts from development activities," says the agency.
NMFS received a joint request last year from the National Coalition for Marine Conservation (NCMC) and the Tag-a-Giant Foundation to consider establishing a new HAPC for spawning bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico, the sole breeding ground for the severely depleted western Atlantic population. The HAPC would coincide with the area identified in a petition submitted to NMFS in June 2005 (by NCMC, Oceana, Blue Ocean Institute, NRDC and Monterey Bay Aquarium) and based on new electronic tagging studies by Dr. Barbara Block of Stanford University.
According to NMFS, HAPCs are intended to focus conservation efforts and bring heightened awareness to the ecological importance of special areas and their vulnerability to degradation through fishing and/or non-fishing activities.
Please visit NCMC's web site for full story and instructions on submitting comments.