I’ve often wondered whether people who eat tuna from a can have any idea what a tuna fish actually looks like? How does a can of tuna still cost less than a dollar? Mainly because the average tin of tuna comes from smaller and less tasty species (usually albacore or skipjack at roughly $25 per pound), which are still plentiful* in the oceans as they require less resources to survive and reproduce. In contrast, the closely related southern bluefin tuna commands upwards of $350 per pound, yet is IUCN listed as ‘critically endangered’. With commercial extinction looming on the horizon, who will be the last person to eat a southern bluefin?
Bluefins are amazing animals. They can live for 40 years and attain weights of 1,600 pounds, yet they blast through the water at speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour. In other respects, they have everything going against them. The tuna grow slowly, and young females lay a only fraction the number of eggs that older ones do. They only have two spawning grounds, one in the Gulf of Mexico and one in the Mediterranean Sea, and when they are on them, tuna form tight schools, making them easy to catch.
Should bluefin disappear, much of the blame should go to an organization called the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), although Carl Safina of the Blue Ocean Institute gave what some consider a more appropriate name, the International Conspiracy to Catch All Tuna. There are now only about 34,000 tuna swimming in the entire western Atlantic, down 82 percent from 1960s levels when the commission started “managing” the fishery.
“Looking at the science, there’s nothing else that makes any sense,” she said. “The current quota is driving the species to commercial extinction.”
Not that ICCAT ever pays much attention to science. “Last year ICCAT’s scientists said that the quota should be no higher than 15,000 metric tons,” said Lieberman. “So they went with 23,000 tons. In reality, with overfishing and illegal fishing, what they actually took is much higher. You can pretty much figure that it was double the quota. What we’re calling for is to suspend the fishery. Let it recover, and then you can go back to fishing. But there’s tremendous opposition, particularly from the European Union, to cutting anything.” (Read More)
* For albacore tuna, North Pacific biomass is 7% above the long-term average biomass for the exploitable stocks. South Pacific biomass is 33% above the biomass needed to support maximum sustainable yield