It’s hard to talk about biodiversity without becoming a little bit depressed at the nature of things. This month’s catch is the particularly gut-wrenching case of bluefin tuna.
Bluefin tuna can by known by many names, including Atlantic bluefin tuna, northern bluefin tuna or giant bluefin tuna. They are capable of reaching in excess of 1000lbs with lifespans of around 30 years. Feeding on smaller fish such as sardines or squids, bluefin tuna are also important predators in the marine food chain. Unfortunately for them, they are considered a prize food fish in many human cultures, and fetch astronomical prices in the Japanese sushi market.
While bluefin tuna have always been fished, the relatively recent popularity of sushi in Western cultures as well as the advent of seine fishing poses an immense threat to this fish. Indeed, bluefin populations are approaching collapse in many areas of the world and are already extinct in certain regions. Rough estimates put populations at approximately 30% of historic numbers.
Nature News recently commented on the sad state of the bluefin tuna industry, noting that under-reporting and illegal fisheries are common.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)meets this November 17th in Madrid to discuss the bluefin tuna fisheries and set quotas. But as Nature News noted, this commission has largely been ineffective and a recent report released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) highlights the many faults of this lax and under-regulated industry.
As always, the most effective avenue of change still lies with the consumer. Eating a species into extinction is just a little bit ridiculous and completely unnecessary. Add bluefin tuna to your list of seafood no-no’s and check out the Vancouver Aquarium’s Oceanwise program for a list of seafoods that should not be ending up on your dinner plate.
[Photo from http://www.oceanriver.org/AtlanticBluefinTuna.php, original by Chris Park]