By Bryan Russo
The Atlantic Bluefin tuna is a mainstay in Ocean City's coastal fishing community, as its one of the most sought after and assessable fish for both sport and recreational fishermen.
Yet, when a petition passed its first big hurdle this week, being deemed by the National Marine Fisheries Service to contain substantial scientific information that the bluefin tuna should be protected by the Endangered Species Act, anxiety and fear became passengers on many local charter boats.
Captain Franky Pettolina explains.
"They may say bluefin tuna are protected, and bluefin tuna can be found two miles off the beach to 40 miles off the beach, you cant fish in that area. That would effectively shut down recreational fishing as we know it," Pettolina says.
Environmentalists say the species should be protected because of decades of over-fishing, and recent scientific claims saying the tuna are not spawning at usual levels as well as concerns over the BP oil spill's impact.
Pettolina says if the bluefin tuna ends up on the ESA listing, both the local fishing industry and the town of Ocean City stand to lose millions of dollars in direct and indirect tourism spending.