The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump administration Wednesday in Los Angeles for allegedly refusing to release public records on its denial of protection for imperiled Pacific bluefin tuna.
After the National Marine Fisheries Service denied Endangered Species Act protection to the Pacific bluefin in 2017, the center sought records about the decision. The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles federal court, comes after the administration allegedly refused to fully comply with the Freedom of Information Act request.
A representative of the fisheries service said he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment.
The Pacific bluefin, a powerful fish that commands top prices at auctions in Japan, has been overfished to less than 4 percent of its historic population, according to the CBD. Most Pacific bluefin caught by commercial and sport fishers haven’t reached reproductive age, further undermining their recovery, according to the environmental group.
“These fish desperately need federal protection, so we want to know why Trump officials shot down those safeguards and who they discussed it with,” said Catherine Kilduff, an attorney at the CBD. “This administration has consistently chosen to support special interests over protecting a healthy ocean for all. The public deserves to know why the Pacific bluefin has been hung out to dry.”
In December 2017, the CBD asked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for all records related to its August 2017 Pacific bluefin decision. The administration responded by claiming disclosure exemptions for 257 of those records and has not responded to the center’s appeal of that decision.
Japan, South Korea, Mexico, the United States and other countries have failed to reduce fishing enough to protect this iconic species, a luxury item on sushi menus, according to the CBD. One study found that bluefin and other large marine organisms are particularly vulnerable to the current mass extinction event. Their loss would disrupt the ocean food web in unprecedented ways, and they need more protection to survive, according to the center.
“Pacific bluefin are apex predators that are vital to healthy ocean ecosystems,” Kilduff said. “Allowing them to be overfished for sushi is tragic. The Endangered Species Act works, and we need to let it work for Pacific bluefin tuna.”
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