Congresswoman Chellie Pingree today condemned a decision by the Obama Administration to have bluefin tuna listed as endangered species under an international treaty.
"I'm outraged by this decision," Pingree said. "US fishermen have been leaders in protecting the bluefin tuna stock and now these same fishermen are being asked to do even more. It's completely unreasonable."
The Obama Administration announced that it wants to list bluefin tuna as an internationally endangered species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). A CITES listing would effectively stop Maine fishermen from selling bluefin tuna outside the United States, which closes off the important Japanese market. Since the Maine tuna season is short and there isn't freezer capacity to store tuna, limiting Maine fishermen to a domestic market would put many of them out of business.
"Maine has a strong tuna fishing tradition and in these tough economic times, the ability to catch and sell a tuna makes the difference for coastal Maine families," Pingree said. "This is the worst possible time to place this unreasonable burden on them."
Pingree said international quotas set last fall as part an international agreement should be allowed to work. (The quota was set by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas.) Pingree says the problem with the CITES listing is that countries like Japan are likely to opt out, which means they will continue to buy tuna internationally from non-U.S. fishermen, while Maine fishermen who play by the rules will be left on the dock.
"This will just means that the bad actors in other countries will get rich, while our fishermen are frozen out of the market," Pingree said.