Save Bluefin Tuna May25

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Save Bluefin Tuna

Ninety percent of the ocean’s large predators, including tuna, have disappeared due to overfishing. And most canned tuna, even dolphin-free brands, is caught using destructive practices. Tuna also has high levels of mercury. Because of its popularity, it is the biggest source of the toxin in humans.

BlueFins Role in the Ocean Food Chain

BlueFin are slow growing, late to mature, and long-lived compared to other species of tuna. Found from the Gulf of Mexico, Newfoundland, east Atlantic, Canary Islands, Iceland, and even in the Mediterranean, they migrate long distances – likely following seasonal food stock. Their long migrations that take them nearly around the Atlantic mean that each school is regularly fished in many different locations; depleting all breeding stocks rapidly.

Throughout a tuna’s life, it exists on various levels of the food chain. Bits of dead plant and fish matter coupled with sunlight and the runoff from human sewage and industrial waste become the foods for plankton-microscopic algae and animals – which live at the surface of the oceans. The spawn of fish and other juveniles eat this plankton, including the young BlueFin tuna.

Other fish feed on the tuna from birth through adulthood including marine mammals. In the meantime, the sewage and industrial runoff causes toxins and metals to accumulate to dangerous levels in the Bluefin’s body.

BlueFins Role on the Plate

BlueFin is a dark colored fish and very high in fat. Because of its high fat content, it is especially sought after for sushi and sashimi. The higher the fat content, the more prized and valuable the fish, but cooking it is not advised because the high fat content gives off an unpleasant fishy taste and odor.

Although BlueFin has been a commercially caught fish for thousands of years, western worlds are also exploiting them for high profits. This is resulting in further depleting the global stock. Further, the dangerous toxins and metals from urban run-off accumulate in the fat deposits in the tuna, making them a diner’s slow poison.

Fishing Restrictions on BlueFin

It comes as no surprise that BlueFin tuna is fast becoming extinct. With the massive increase in human populations and increased popularity of sushi and sashimi, it is becoming a prized catch, fetching higher and higher market prices, fueling the hunt down of this endangered species. As of 1982, fishing of the species was restricted. By 1998, a rebuilding program was initiated with the intent to rebuild stock in the North Atlantic.

In 1999 and 2006 further restrictions on driftnets, catching methods, limits and hunting methods were restricted, and careful planning on preventing the total extinction of the species was implemented. Public interest groups became involved in 2010, even sending out boats that follow tuna fishing boats to monitor their fishing methods and to ensure they do not catch more than their yearly or seasonal limits. These actions barely stem the tide of massive kills for fish markets globally.

The Fate of the BlueFin is in Our Hands

 A few hundred years ago, overfishing was not an issue as inland imports of fish were unheard of. New methods of storage for long distance shipping furthered the exploitation of the fish by land-bound countries.

We can prevent the extinction of yet another species on our planet. While the BlueFin is part of the diets of several countries, we can substitute with other farmed or renewable fish sources. The secret to saving the BlueFin lies in eating local, rather than imported, foods. Or go vegan or vegetarian.

Market name: Tuna, Bluefin Tuna, Toro, Maguro Vernacular names: Giant Bluefin, Northern Bluefin Tuna Best choices The best choice is to avoid tuna altogether until they are given the chance to recover. But if you can’t completely cut it out of your diet, here are a few options that are better than others:

•  MSC- certified albacore West Coast tuna

•  Canned light albacore tuna, especially if it’s pole-and-line caught

•  Canned “light” tuna, especially skipjack, which is smaller and more abundant than other tuna and contains less mercury.

Fishermen Capture Tuna and Dolphins Together

 

In the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean west of Mexico and Central America, large yellowfin tuna swim together with several species of dolphins: pantropical spotted,  spinner and Delphinus delphis, dolphins. This ecological association of tuna and dolphins is not clearly understood, but it has had two important practical consequences: it has formed the basis of a successful tuna fishery, and it has resulted in the deaths of a large number of dolphins. This is the heart of the tuna-dolphin issue.

The bycatch of dolphins in the eastern tropical Pacific (ETP) purse-seine tuna fishery stands apart from marine mammal bycatch in other fisheries, not only in scale but in the way the dolphins interact with the fishery. Marine mammals interact with most fishing gear only incidentally, but in the ETP tuna fishery the dolphins are an intrinsic part of the fishing operation. The fishermen intentionally capture both tuna and dolphins together, then release the dolphins from the net. Further, unlike most other fisheries, the vast majority of dolphins captured by the ETP tuna fishery are released alive; thus, an individual dolphin may be chased, captured and released many times during its lifetime.

The number of dolphins killed since the fishery began in the late 1950s is estimated to be over 6 million animals, the highest known for any fishery. For comparison, the total number of whales of all species killed during commercial whaling in the 20th century was about 2 million. The bycatch of dolphins in the ETP tuna fishery has now been successfully reduced by more than 99%, but even at the present level of about 1,000 dolphins/year, it remains among the largest documented cetacean bycatch in the world.

[updated from W. F. Perrin, B. Wursig and J. G. M. Thewissen, eds. Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. Academic Press, San Diego, California., p.1269-1273 (2002)]

Resources/References:
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

 

Ocean Lifeline Save Bluefin Tuna