Giant Bluefin Tuna in Trouble

Choke on your Chu-toro roll. The giant bluefin tuna so beloved of sushi fans is rapidly disappearing and in deep trou
ble.

The bluefin tuna population has dropped by more than 97 percent from historic levels, according to a report from the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species.

Under current levels of reproduction and management of the fisheries in the Pacific, the likelihood of rebuilding stocks to healthy levels is only 0.1 percent, the report says. That’s one in a thousand odds.

Harvested at Three Times the Sustainable Level

The much-desired and economically valuable bluefin continues to be overfished – harvested by three times the level considered sustainable in some areas.

Not to point fingers, but the Japanese eat eight out of ten of all bluefin tuna caught worldwide. Stocks of
all three bluefin species — the Pacific, Southern and Atlantic — have dropped during the last 15 years as demand for the delicious pink-to-red fleshed fish has skyrocketed.

The problem is big demand and big money. Bluefin – hon-maguro to sushi lovers – is perhaps the best-known and most commonly eaten fish in all of sushi dining. It comes in three cuts – Akami, Chu-toro, and O-toro. Japanese restaurateur Kiyoshi Kimura set a record when he paid an astronomical $1.76 million for a single tuna in 2013. More recently, he dropped a comparatively modest $37,000 earlier this year as high bidder on a 400-pound fish at the Tsukji fish market.

Up to 1,500 Pounds

Bluefin can be up to 10 feet long and weigh as much as 1,500 pounds. Ernest Hemingway fished for them in the deep Atlantic. In April a 606 pounder was certified as the new Virginia state record. Sports fishermen have already seen a reduction in limits in U.S. waters. But sport fishing is hardly the culprit, nor is management of the fishery in U.S. waters. Nonetheless, groups like the Center for Biological Diversity have called for a halt to all Bluefin tuna fishing in the Pacific Ocean.

While it may not have a large impact on fish populations, West Coast anglers hope their support for tighter recreational limits on Pacific bluefins will shame nations such as Japan into making similar reductions in their commercial harvests.Hemingway

With sushi demand and tuna prices sky high, it may take a lot of shaming.

 


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