Campaign to List White Marlin as Endangered Species Gains Steam

A Colorado-based non-profit organization filed a formal petition with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) last summer to place white marlin on the endangered species list. The Biodiversity Legal Foundation and fisheries biologist James Chambers cited 30 years of commercial fishing with non-selective gear, such as longlines and gillnets, and the common belief that the stock had declined to just 13 percent of its sustainable level."In the greatest danger of extinction are white marlin whose population is extremely low and declining rapidly," said Chambers. The petition calls for white marlin to be listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and also for immediate action-such as closure of white marlin spawning and feeding areas to commercial fishing-to prevent the species from becoming extinct.But not everyone agrees with this strategy. Ellen Peel of The Billfish Foundation believes that science-based international fishery management offers stronger prospects for restoration of marlin stocks than national "protective species" measures such as the ESA. "While there is no doubt that the species is seriously overfished," said Peel, "unilateral action under the ESA would only exert additional restraints on U.S. fisheries and have no impact on foreign high-seas longline vessels, which are the source of the problem. Other nations, which kill most of the marlin, will realize that U.S. negotiators are controlled by the ESA, which has no international authority, and the negotiating strength of the U.S. will be weakened." NMFS had 90 days to make a preliminary ruling on the petition.