A recent news release reports that about 10 percent of the bluefin tuna spawning habitat in the northern Gulf was covered with BP’s oil in the spring of 2010, an area estimated to have contained 12 percent of that season’s larval bluefin tuna. The reason for the lower-than-feared numbers seems to be that most of the oil drifted to the eastern side of the region, while most of the spawning activity was taking place west of that flow.

The authors of the report, however, put the adjectives “less than” in front of both the 10-percent and 12-percent figures.

Many anglers and other conservationists feared the damage could have been much higher. But when you take a 12-percent whack out of the spawning class of a long-lived species, already fighting to maintain its viability against unrelenting international fishing pressure, that’s not good news. It’s kind of like celebrating that the carriers were not at Pearl Harbor. We’re still talking about a heavy hit and significant damage on a vital resource that will take some time to replace.

And, what if the currents and winds had taken that oil to the west? Or, what if the blowout had occurred at one of the thousands of wells in that western area?

Bluefin tuna may have dodged an oily bullet, but the close call should stand as a very scary warning.

The release says the nine researchers from industry, academia and government worked together to produce the paper, “Overlap between Atlantic bluefin tuna spawning grounds and observed Deepwater Horizon surface oil in the Northern Gulf of Mexico.”

Funding came from NASA, NOAA, Florida Institute of Oceanography, University of Miami Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, and Roffers Oceans Fishing Forecast Service.