The National Marine Fisheries Service will start an official review for Atlantic bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act, the Recreational Fishing Alliance reports.
The decision to consider an endangered listing for bluefin is in response to a request by the Center for Biological Diversity, the group now spearheading a national lead ban for fishermen.
"Recreational fishermen have enjoyed bluefin tuna fishing for more than 100 years," said Jim Donofrio, executive director of the RFA, in a statement. "Bluefin have for a long time been the common man's big gamefish because they tend to be more accessible to near-shore areas than some of the tropical tunas such as yellowfin and bigeye."
Although landings are down significantly because of federal regulations, Donofrio said there are still enough recreational fishermen participating in the fishery to contribute significantly from an economic and social standpoint in terms of tackle sales, fuel sales, boat dockage and maintenance, charters and recreational fishing activity and enjoyment.
The RFA said it intends to aggressively involve itself in the review and in assuring that the recreational fishing community is protected.
"Although regulations have significantly reduced harvest and have all but eliminated the party boat industry from this fishery, it is still an important component of the recreational sector," Donofrio said. "If these fish are listed as endangered, which we do not believe they are, the recreational fishing industry will suffer another significant blow."