A Bluefin Tuna for $118,000: Going, Going … Gone?

Bluefin Tuna, photo credit Tom Puchner, 2008
Bluefin Tuna, photo credit Tom Puchner, 2008

By Maria Damanaki, Global Managing Director for Oceans at The Nature Conservancy

Bluefin tuna is one of the ocean’s most prized fish, an icon of both modern and classic civilizations and a key predator in the ocean’s delicate food chain. And yet its very existence on this planet is now up to us — the collaborative actions of this generation’s policy makers, fishermen, scientists, tech innovators, seafood industry leaders and communities. The survival of this majestic fish is on the brink, and we no longer have even a minute to waste.

How did we get here?

Since the early 1970s, the global bluefin population – including its three sub-species of Atlantic, Pacific and Southern bluefin – has declined by 80 percent, according to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). And the Pacific bluefin, specifically, is down to only 5 percent of its population size a century ago. In 2013, bluefin tuna represented just one percent of the world’s tuna catch.

I participated earlier this month in an urgent gathering of stakeholders on this issue at the Bluefin Futures Symposium hosted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Stanford University. I was encouraged to see the three-day working meeting bring together scientists, policy makers and – of vital importance – the fishermen themselves to talk about how we might approach new solutions to this issue.

The meeting underscored the fact that saving the bluefin is a unique global challenge, one where the behavior of the species itself exemplifies the current limitations of being able to sustainably manage its catch. They know no boundaries.

Bluefin tuna are fast. And they are world travelers — capable of spanning the globe in a calendar year. As a result, they —> Read More