Sep 21 2016
Today, a fish story.
Bluefin tuna are following the same trajectory as the passenger pigeon. Because they taste good they’re poised to go extinct.
Atlantic (Thunnus thynnus) and Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnis orientalis) are highly migratory predators that spawn on one side of their respective oceans and travel thousands of miles on migration to their feeding grounds. When they reach maturity at three to five years old they return to spawn. Bluefins can live 15 to 50 years and reach up to 990 pounds but because of overfishing very few live to maturity.
Like the passenger pigeon, human hunting pressure is the only reason for the bluefin’s decline. Technological advances in deep sea fishing have made it easy to catch all of them. Their meat is so prized in Japan for sushi and sashimi that the Pacific population has declined more than 97%. Large specimens are so rare that according to the January 11, 2013 issue of TIME magazine, “Just last week, a 489-lb. bluefin was sold at a fish auction in Tokyo for a record $1.76 million—or about $3,600 per pound.” That was nearly four years ago. Their status has only gotten worse.
Like the final decades of the passenger pigeon, the bluefin’s plight has been discussed for years. Catch limits for Atlantic bluefin have been in place since 2007 and it’s been nominated for endangered status. In 2010 the World Wildlife Fund pointed out there was still so much over-capacity for Atlantic tuna fishing that EU boats reached their catch limit in only one week. In 2011 Salon magazine asked, “Why are we still eating bluefin tuna?” In 2014, the Center for Biodiversity called for a Pacific bluefin fishing ban.
This summer the situation became so dire that a dozen environmental groups called for listing the Pacific bluefin tuna as Endangered and the Pew Trusts called for a Pacific bluefin moratorium.
This Pew Trusts video explains how the Pacific moratorium, implemented immediately, would save the species.
We still have time to turn it around — but not much.
Will bluefin tuna go the way of the passenger pigeon … from billions to none?
(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original.)