Sashimi or sustainability. Which is more important?

For U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, it appears to be sashimi, especially if it means fresh ahi for the holidays.

Schatz lauded a recent decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to allow Hawaii longliners to catch bigeye tuna in the coming months even though they’ve already met their quota.

Ahi Poke Tuna Sashimi

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz wants to make sure there’s enough poke for the holidays.

Under the rule change, Hawaii fishermen would take the unused portion of the ahi quota from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to ensure people in the Aloha State don’t run out of fresh fish for the holidays.

“For many years, the threat of a shortage during the holidays has caused higher prices for families and less productivity for our fishermen,” Schatz said in a statement. “That is why I am so pleased we were able to work with both NOAA and the Hawaii longliners on a solution to increase our ahi catch, ensuring Hawaii families won’t experience any shortages of sashimi when ringing in the New Year.”

But not everyone is as enthusiastic as the 42-year-old senator, who’s currently running to finish out the term of late-U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye.

Just this week the Center for Biological Diversity blasted the federal government’s decision to let Hawaii fishermen keep their lines in the water, saying it skirted international limits that were meant to prevent overfishing.

“Bigeye tuna are in serious trouble, and this rule only makes it worse,” Center for Biological Diversity attorney Catherine Kilduff said in a statement Tuesday. “Not only will these tuna pay the price, but so will the whales, dolphins and other animals that get caught on their hooks. International limits were put in place for a reason, and this rule is simply a cynical workaround to allow fishing to go right ahead even though the limit’s already been caught.”

According to the center, bigeye tuna stocks have been overfished since the 1990s and are at historical lows. The center also notes that the number of longline hooks in Hawaii’s waters increased fourfold from 1996 to 2008.

The Pew Charitable Trusts also gave a dire assessment of the the Pacific Ocean’s bigeye tuna population in a recent article in which Amanda Nickson, the group’s director of global tuna conservation, says “the region’s current conservation management measures are just not working.”

Schatz said he worked with NOAA, the Hawaii Longline Association and the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council to secure the quota exchange.

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