Friday, September 25, 2009

Bye Bye Bluefin

Who'd have thought tuna could cause such a fuss? Scientists, environmentalists and politicians, of course. At issue in Europe this week is bluefin tuna, considered to be one of the most expensive and valuable sushi fish in the world. But the rise in popularity of sushi has taken its toll on bluefin tuna stocks. Since the 1970s, the population of Atlantic bluefin tuna has declined by as much as 90%. Bluefins are big fish and take a long time to mature. Increasingly, juvenile fishes are being caught before they have a chance to breed.

Environmentalists, including Japanese scientists, believe that overfishing is pushing bluefin tuna to extinction. One media story by ITV refers to the future of the bluefin as being 'as precarious as the Giant Panda," and some scientists believe that extinction may be as close as three years away unless firm action is taken now.

This week, the European Union (EU) executive commission urged member countries to agree to a temporary ban on bluefin catches until fish stocks recover. The United States is also calling for a ban. However, countries that regularly fish the bluefin have stalled the proposal. Japan is the main consumer of bluefin tuna and the Japanese are willing to pay a high price for the fish. Over 80% of bluefin tuna caught in the Atlantic and Mediterranean are exported there. Japan's own pacific bluefin is also overfished and there are calls to list both on the International endangered species list.

It really angers me that some politicians can't see beyond economy and politics to the bigger environmental issues. Yes, banning fishing on a lucrative export item has economic consequences, but the longer-term consequences (both environmental and economic) are more devastating. Have politicians learned nothing from the collapse of the cod fishery in the Canadian Grand Banks?

So what can we do as consumers?

  • Don't consume bluefin tuna (also known as Kuromaguro, Atun de aleta azul, thon rouge)
  • Order albacore tuna (shiro maguro) instead at sushi restaurants
  • Encourage your local restaurant or fishmonger to purchase a sustainable alternative
  • Support groups like Oceana and WWF who are lobbying for the fishing ban
  • Write your minister asking Canada to support the ban

Links to other articles and videos on this topic:


Anonymous said...

Great post. I twittered the link. : )

Amanda said...