Monday, May 10, 2010

Is the Oil Spill the Final Nail in the Coffin for Bluefin Tuna?

This is the first post from our undergraduate students, Kirsty Hill, in the H2 Marine Resources course at the Scottish Associaiton for Marine Science. Every year we give the students an opportunity to post a blog to raise awareness about different marine issues.....

The recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has raised concerns for the already crucially endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna stock. The impact of this environmental hazard has again, highlighted the fears for the levels of stock of this highly sought after fish. At present, the gulf is an important spawning site for the fish and the tuna larvae will be highly susceptible to the toxic effects of the oil. The spill is estimated to be churning out oil into the ocean at a rate of 210,000 gallons per day.
This area of the Gulf region is thought to be especially attractive to bluefin tuna because of the long, flat continental shelf which then flows into a dramatic slope. The warm currents that enter the area produce eddies that create perfect spawning conditions for the fish. This areas, however, happens to also be a favourable area for deep-sea oil drilling
The tuna appear in this area at this time of year for only about a month. It is not only bluefin that may be affected by the spill, but an estimated 600 other marine species may be at risk and could continue to be for months until the oil can be contained.
Bluefin tuna are already at serious risk of permanent extinction with the population already down to just 10 - 15% of originally recorded spawning biomass levels. This has stemmed from overfishing, especially in Japan, as their meat is sought after for sashimi and other delicacies.
The eventual repercussions will depend on several interlinked variables that can include the weather, ocean currents, the properties of the oil involved and the success or failure of the frantic efforts to stifle the flow and reduce its effects on the environment.
Not only does this raise issues for the ecosystem but also for the implications of deep-sea oil drilling. This is just the beginning of the clear up and we may not know the final outcome for many years to come.

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