In the grocery store, tuna is seen as one of the most abundant and common fish. You’ll find it in everything from cans to fillets, in the aforementioned stores to restaurant menus as well.
But despite this outward appearance, the truth is that one of the key species of tuna, the bluefin, has seen its numbers drop sharply since the 1960s, including both the Pacific and Atlantic bluefin varieties.
According to a recent article by the website TakePart.com, bluefin tuna stocks in the North Pacific Ocean have reached a level of just 2.6% for their historic population. Two years ago, the Pacific bluefin’s listing by the International Union for Conservation of Nature was changed from “least concern” to “vulnerable.”
And to make matters worse, the Atlantic bluefin is listed as endangered, with some people in the scientific community saying that the existence of the species itself is under threat.
“No One Should Eat Bluefin Tuna for the Foreseeable Future”
The question of what to do next, considering the enormous scale of the tuna industry, is a difficult one to say the least.
Carl Safina, a marine ecologist from Brooklyn, made a surprising statement in the TakePart article:
“No one should eat bluefin tuna for the foreseeable future,” he said, adding that he hasn’t caught them for 16 years even though it was one of his favorite things to do as a kid.
Despite the warning, other organizations seem to disagree with Safina’s statement; for example the West Coast Region of NOAA Fisheries which has said that catch limits cutting intake by 40 percent has made “domestically caught bluefin a sustainable choice.”
The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch disagrees saying that all bluefin tuna caught in the Pacific in any manner should be released back into the wild.
Making matters more complicated is the Japanese market’s voracious appetite for the fish. In total about 80 percent of bluefin tuna caught each year in the Pacific is consumed in Japan. Because the fish can swim great distances, a fish that is caught and released in California may simply be eaten later.
Solving the Tuna Sustainability Problem
So, what is the solution to the growing problem of dropping tuna populations?
Once again there is no concrete answer, although it is best to begin by taking a look in the mirror and making individual efforts to reduce consumption. Otherwise, big business will be forced to come up with highly unnatural solutions (or supposed solutions that often don’t work) such as creating genetically engineered animals, as has been done in the case of salmon.
Pacific tuna has also been linked to radiation from Fukushima as well.
In the case of Japan and its thirst for more tuna stocks, it is well worth noting that the country has proposed an abolishment on import tariffs of tuna and salmon under the TPP (a pro-GMO international trade bill based in the Pacific that many activists have widely criticized).
That could be good news for many companies’ bottom lines but bad news for the already depleted ocean stocks.
It’s a confounding problem to be sure, but that’s just the way it goes when dealing with an issue as complex as the fate of the tuna population, which is part of a sprawling ecosystem that has evolved over thousands of years.
For more on this story, check out the full TakePart article by clicking here.
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